This debut octet outing led by guitarist Mary Halvorson is packed with an all-star team, featuring alto saxophonist Jon Irabagon, bassist John Hébert and other notables. However, one of the differentiators is the addition of pedal steel guitarist Susan Alcorn, who pushes the envelope above and beyond standard fare, sans the traditional Country music element. As many would anticipate, Halvorson integrates a modicum of surprises into the program that include false endings, shifting cadences, melancholic interludes and manic breakdowns amid her phrasings that occasionally dissolve into an abyss. Her signature sound and technique is in full bloom here with a few off-kilter reverse-engineering progressions and crafty arrangements for the hornists.
"Fog Bank (no.56)" is a stepping-stone for Alcorn, following Halvorson's shadowy opening statements, contrasted by Hebert's creaky arco lines and trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson's somber phrasings. Here, Alcorn's crystalline sound sculptures are designed with expansive choruses and off-centered celestial treatments but she tears it up with soaring jazz improv that teeters on the free-zone. Her visionary stance and artful articulations lead to an exploding experimental sequence of musical events, topped off by the horns section ascending overtures toward closeout. Ultimately, Away With You is a gleefully capricious and scintillating production interspersed with Halvorson's engaging subplots and tuneful hooks.
Spirit Splitter (no. 54); Away With You (no. 55); The Absolute Almost (no. 52);
Sword Barrel (no. 58); Old King Misfit (no. 57); Fog Bank (no. 56); Safety Orange
(no. 59); Inky Ribbons (no. 53).
Mary Halvorson: guitar; Susan Alcorn: pedal steel guitar; Jonathan Finlayson:
trumpet; Jon Irabagon: alto saxophone; Ingrid Laubrock: tenor saxophone; Jacob
Garchik: trombone; John Hébert: bass; Ches Smith: drums.