All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

11

Mary Halvorson Octet: Away With You

Troy Dostert By

Sign in to view read count
Continuing her streak of outstanding releases, guitarist extraordinaire Mary Halvorson once again shows her determination to build upon her unique style as a composer and bandleader. She's taken her septet from 2013's superb Illusionary Sea and added an eighth member, pedal steel guitarist Susan Alcorn, and the resulting music is typical Halvorson: harmonically complex, emotionally compelling, and full of interesting moments worth savoring.

The first thing one notices about Alcorn's presence is the sense of atmosphere she provides. On the third track, "The Absolute Almost," she offers spare, crystalline notes that gradually emerge and then drift away, providing a somber opening to the cut. Then Halvorson herself joins in, with carefully placed notes that emerge in a pensive dialogue with Alcorn to continue the subdued conversation, before a break in which the rest of the band jumps in to take the piece in a dramatically different direction, full of bounce and rhythmic drive. (It's little surprises like these that always make listening to a Halvorson record such an adventure.) Alcorn's role seems to liberate Halvorson's playing, freeing up subtle opportunities for her to contribute to the group as an equal rather than as a dominant voice.

It's also immediately evident how well this group works together as a unit. Drummer Ches Smith and bassist John Hébert have worked as Halvorson's partners for several recordings, to the point that they are an intuitive element of the rhythmic fluidity that is one of her trademarks. Even during the record's more raucous moments, there's never a sense that they're in danger of losing control of the pulse. And the horns are as fabulous as you would expect: with Jonathan Finlayson, Jon Irabagon, Ingrid Laubrock and Jacob Garchik in the lineup, Halvorson has a superlative brass section for her rich compositions, each member equally adept as a soloist or as an ensemble contributor.

Perhaps the most engaging aspect of the recording is its strong emotional core. Listening to the opening of the record, "Spirit Splitter," and the jubilant horn interplay that propels the track, it is clear that this is music to be enjoyed, not simply admired or respected. Whether we are taken down a path of exultant cacophony or melancholy musings, with Halvorson as our guide it is sure to involve her irresistible melodic sensibility. I'm sure Halvorson's next installment in her impressive catalog will continue to surprise and astonish, but in the meantime she's given us another exceptional record to celebrate.

Track Listing: 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).

Personnel: 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.

Title: Away With You | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Firehouse 12 Records

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

CD/LP/Track Review
In Pictures
CD/LP/Track Review
Interviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Code Girl

Code Girl

Firehouse 12 Records
2018

buy
Theirs

Theirs

Cuneiform Records
2018

buy
Away With You

Away With You

Firehouse 12 Records
2017

buy
Away With You

Away With You

Firehouse 12 Records
2016

buy
Meltframe

Meltframe

Firehouse 12 Records
2015

buy

Related Articles

Read Out in the Open CD/LP/Track Review
Out in the Open
by Jack Bowers
Published: November 16, 2018
Read Contemporary Chaos Practices CD/LP/Track Review
Contemporary Chaos Practices
by Don Phipps
Published: November 16, 2018
Read Changed Beings CD/LP/Track Review
Changed Beings
by Chris May
Published: November 16, 2018
Read We Must Mustn't We CD/LP/Track Review
We Must Mustn't We
by John Sharpe
Published: November 16, 2018
Read Two Infinitudes; The One You "see" and the One That Is You. CD/LP/Track Review
Two Infinitudes; The One You "see" and the One...
by Glenn Astarita
Published: November 16, 2018
Read Always Forward CD/LP/Track Review
Always Forward
by Jack Bowers
Published: November 15, 2018
Read "Atwood Suites" CD/LP/Track Review Atwood Suites
by Friedrich Kunzmann
Published: August 7, 2018
Read "Organ Monk Blue" CD/LP/Track Review Organ Monk Blue
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: December 30, 2017
Read "Cubafonía" CD/LP/Track Review Cubafonía
by Matt Hooke
Published: December 26, 2017
Read "Love Letters" CD/LP/Track Review Love Letters
by Rokas Kucinskas
Published: December 27, 2017
Read "On The Path" CD/LP/Track Review On The Path
by Jerome Wilson
Published: July 2, 2018
Read "Kiss Your Darlings" CD/LP/Track Review Kiss Your Darlings
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: June 27, 2018