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CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mary Halvorson - Michael Formanek - Tomas Fujiwara: Thumbscrew

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Kindred musical spirits unite on this composers' cooperative, featuring three musicians who have been forerunners and antagonists of new-fangled directions in the avant-garde jazz spectrum, other than ripping into customary modern jazz fare with a vengeance. The artists' divergent discographies offer a worldly testament to these aspects, besides their work as first-call session aces. With Michael Formanek's pronounced bass lines, guitarist Mary Halvorson's fascinating permutations, and drummer Tomas Fujiwara laying down a host of perky grooves, the group executes within a 360-degree realm of invention. With her hollow-body electric guitar, Halvorson's strangely appealing detuning mechanisms, dodgy and zippy ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Mary Halvorson Septet: Illusionary Sea

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In 2009 Mary Halvorson was asked how relevant she felt that the word 'jazz' was to musicians of her generation. Her response was telling “Oh, I think about jazz all the time and although I don't play the traditional forms, I call myself a 'jazz musician.'.. trying to integrate everything into my own language." The corollary of this is that, while she has clear roots in jazz, Halvorson has assimilated influences from many genres of music and reflects this in the open minded attitude exhibited by her compositions and playing. Its all about what works together rather than simply repeating ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mary Halvorson Septet: Illusionary Sea

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Guitarist Mary Halvorson's signature sound and methodologies have been making an impact within avant-garde and progressive-jazz circles on a global basis. Illusionary Sea marks the debut of her septet, comprised of impressionable players often residing at the forefront of the newer kindling of what may loosely be classified as jazz. Here, like minds coalesce for an album that crosses jazz, classical and avant-garde frontiers, via Halvorson's intriguing compositions and oscillating, wave-like arrangements that rarely inhabit a continuous plane. The guitarist steers the festivities with unorthodox chord clusters and nimble single note lines that sometimes drift into the ozone ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mary Halvorson Septet: Illusionary Sea

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Guitarist Mary Halvorson's Illusionary Sea is rich and intriguing filled with contrasting yet complementary motifs and patterns. Leading a septet of versatile and idiosyncratic musicians, Halvorson deftly entwines divergent musical threads into an elegant musical tapestry that bears her distinctive mark without overshadowing her band mates' individuality.The elaborately constructed pieces allow ample room for spontaneity. They are not, however, a mere showcase of the soloists' prowess, but rather the written melody and the impromptu musical constructs meld into an inventive whole. The intense “Smiles Of Great Men (No. 34)" for instance, opens with Halvorson's furious strummed guitar followed ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Secret Keeper (Stephan Crump & Mary Halvorson): Super 8

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Bassist Stephan Crump and guitarist Mary Halvorson kindled the fire in 2011 during their initial encounter, leading to these sessions recorded in Brooklyn, N.Y. Of course, the respective artists are highly revered within modern jazz schemas and the outside realm, spanning a global presence as first-call session artists, paralleling their solo ventures. Hence, the duo crafts an organic-electric presence. Halvorson's unorthodox and rather beguiling technique sets her apart from many contemporaries. Her liquefying phraseology tenders a weirdly contagious musicality coupled with Crump's thick tone and pliant articulations on acoustic bass. Crump lays down a firm pulse and engages ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mary Halvorson Quintet: Bending Bridges

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The widely celebrated 2010 debut of Mary Halvorson's Quintet, Saturn Sings (Firehouse 12), confirmed the young guitarist's growing reputation with a selection of urbane compositions as impressive as her idiosyncratic improvisations. Bending Bridges expands upon the previous album's concepts, offering further proof of Halvorson's burgeoning talent, reinforced by an even greater sense of accord within the ensemble.Bassist John Hébert and drummer Ches Smith once again support the vivacious frontline of trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson and saxophonist Jon Irabagon, who join Halvorson's Trio for half the record, extrapolating a dizzying array of contrapuntal themes while gracefully navigating the capricious transitions ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

AYCH / Jim Hobbs / Mary Halvorson / Taylor Ho Bynum: As The Crow Flies

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Three prominent modern-era improvisers offer a lesson in stark contrasts on this session, containing semi-structured and composed works. The artists construct off-center balladry, angst, and playful, cartoon-like soundscapes, amid a few doomsday scenarios dispersed throughout the jaggedly moving parts. Alto saxophonist Jim Hobbs' “Over Yonder" stands out, because it would have seemed highly unlikely that the trio would flirt with traditional, New Orleans jazz frameworks within the set's largely freely organized and vastly expressive agenda. Sparking remembrances of Louis Armstrong's resonating extended notes, cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum aligns with Jim Hobbs for a bracing set of choruses, executed ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mary Halvorson Quintet: Bending Bridges

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For the sophomore effort from her quintet, guitarist Mary Halvorson reprises the winning formula of Saturn Sings (Firehouse 12, 2010). Again, there is a mix of pieces for the full ensemble and for Halvorson in trio; and, again, the end result defies classification, touching on spidery improv, jazz tradition and avant rock in a cleverly idiosyncratic brew. Only this time out, she is even more successful. Her writing has developed, unveiling appealing tunes enlivened by arrangements which extract the best from the resources at her disposal.In spite of the presence of illustrious saxophonist Jon Irabagon, Halvorson proves the ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

AYCH / Jim Hobbs / Mary Halvorson / Taylor Ho Bynum: As The Crow Flies

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Improvising confederates agree to collaborate to create music out of thin air, right? Well, yes. Except when they don't. AYCH features three of the finest improvisers working today: saxophonist Jim Hobbs; guitarist Mary Halvorson; and cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum. All three come with stellar pedigrees and experience in guitarist/bassist Joe Morris' ensembles, plus Halvorson and Bynum were schooled at the knee of Anthony Braxton. Their previous recording together was last year's Bynum Sextet session, Apparent Distance (Firehouse 12, 2011).Seven of the twelve tracks presented here are group improvisations, the remaining five are penned by Hobbs. With ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mary Halvorson & Jessica Pavone: Departure of Reason

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Departure of Reason is guitarist Mary Halvorson and violist Jessica Pavone's fourth duo recording, following Thin Air (Thirsty Ear, 2009), On and Off (Skirl, 2007) and Prairies (Lucky Kitchen, 2005). As leading lights of the fertile Brooklyn scene, their unique musical vocabulary encompasses a wealth of seemingly unrelated genres, from flamenco and folk to madrigal and metal; their seamless transitions between these disparate styles serve as the underlying foundation for experimental improvisations that skirt the tenuous divide between free jazz and the avant-garde. Intimate dialogues based on stately neo-classical themes provide their formal constructions with an inimitable perspective; the unified ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Weasel Walter / Mary Halvorson / Peter Evans: Electric Fruit

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Weasel Walter / Mary Halvorson / Peter EvansElectric FruitThirsty Ear2011 Percussionist and improviser Weasel Walter often uses the term “face rip" to describe a particularly intense musical experience. In improvised music, you often don't get a “blood and guts" approach; free jazz, in many instances, has been squeezed to the point that to remain relevant, it must often have structured erudition applied to it. That's understandable, of course--rarely can a musician go for 40 years blowing his or her lungs out and not look for something else to do, and while ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Weasel Walter/ Mary Halvorson/ Peter Evans: Electric Fruit

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The meeting of guitarist Mary Halvorson, trumpeter Peter Evans, and drummer Weasel Walter is something more than an informal chinwag and something less than a formal colloquy. These six improvised tracks act as a show-and- tell demonstration of the immense talents of tomorrow's--and, maybe today's--creative giants.In the past few years, Halvorson's trio disc, Dragon's Head (Firehouse 12, 2008), and septet session, Saturn Sings (Firehouse 12, 2010), have been tapped on numerous top ten lists, as has Evans' work with Mostly Other People Do The Killing. Both players have developed extraordinary technique on their instruments and have been featured ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mary Halvorson Quintet: Saturn Sings

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Guitarist Mary Halvorson has graduated, summa cum laude, from the Anthony Braxton academy to become a hot ticket, popping up in ensembles as diverse as Thirteenth Assembly, Ingrid Laubrock's Anti-House, Marc Ribot's Sun Ship and Crackleknob. And now, the adventurous Firehouse 12 imprint has released the keenly awaited followup to her debut as leader, Dragon's Head (Firehouse 12, 2008). This time out, her longstanding trio--completed by bassist John Hébert and drummer Ches Smith, is supplemented by horns on six out of the ten cuts in this 66-minute program. But even with the horns, Halvorson remains the dominant voice. Deservedly so: ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mary Halvorson Quintet: Saturn Sings

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One of the things that make Mary Halvorson's music so distinctive is the sense of flux which ensures that every release under the guitarist's own name seems like a report back from musical territories as yet uncharted. Making Saturn Sings something of a milestone, as the addition of horns might have had a detrimental effect on the music of her trio, which has already reached a state of almost telepathic understanding. But there's no reason to fear, as the music is as singular as ever. Listening to “Mile High Like (No.16)," it's difficult to ...



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