296

Mary Halvorson: Dragon's Head

John Sharpe By

Sign in to view read count
One of guitarist Mary Halvorson's most high profile gig was with Anthony Braxton, featuring in his Twelvetet and Sextet, and most prominently in his Diamond Curtain Wall Trio. In these diverse settings she allied top quality musicianship with energetic unpredictability, a combination equally to the fore in her trio debut Dragon's Head, though here framed within the context of her own idiosyncratic compositions.

Halvorson wrote all of these songs with seasoned bassist John Hebert and drummer Ches Smith's playing in mind, and she has succeeded in forging a coherent group identity, no matter that she takes the opportunity to experiment with different compositional forms. Hebert's bass provides a resonant grounding for the stylistic variety, while Smith deals in rhythmic emphasis and coloration, and both are adept at the on a dime turns that Halvorson demands.

Halvorson's compositional voice is every bit as distinctive as her instrumental prowess, with most pieces boasting unpredictable swerves in direction and contrasts in energy, meter and mood. "Momentary Lapse" provides ample illustration, with a two part theme comprising an insistent acceleration of repeated notes, followed by chiming guitar and ticking drums. Hebert's bass then provides a lyrical lead voice, before swirling guitar atop clattering drums, only to mutate into a blizzard of fuzzed guitar, disintegrating into an explosion of ricocheting space invader sounds in a great solo from Halvorson, until finally reprising the chiming ticking theme. And all in just eight minutes.

Elsewhere themes are as much rhythmic as melodic, constructed from simple materials, but assembled in counterintuitive ways that sound new, like the multiple tempos of "Scant Frame" or the dynamic contrasts of "Sweeter Than You."

Halvorson reinvents the role of the guitar as a generator of texture and percussive drive, though deploying her palette of effects judiciously. On the ironic but doomy "Too Many Ties" her slurred notes are not so much bent, as back breaking and contorted, while the closing "April April May" finds her cleanly picked lines skipping across a sparse rhythmic landscape, in contrast to the ominously galumphing theme. Fitting well with the Firehouse 12 label's burgeoning reputation for the unconventional, this album warrants repeated listens, taking time to yield up its many secrets.

Track Listing: Old Nine Two Six Four Two Dies; Momentary Lapse; Screws Loose; Scant Frame; Sweeter Than You; Sank Silver Purple White; Too Many Ties; Totally Opaque; Dragon's Head; April April May.

Personnel: Mary Halvorson: guitar; John Hebert: bass; Ches Smith: drums.

Title: Dragon's Head | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Firehouse 12 Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.

Album Reviews
In Pictures
Album Reviews
Interviews
Album Reviews
General Articles
Album Reviews
Extended Analysis
Album Reviews
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

Related Articles

Read Live at I.C.U.U. Album Reviews
Live at I.C.U.U.
By Karl Ackermann
June 16, 2019
Read 789 Miles Album Reviews
789 Miles
By David A. Orthmann
June 16, 2019
Read Follow Me Album Reviews
Follow Me
By Roger Farbey
June 16, 2019
Read You Get What You Give Album Reviews
You Get What You Give
By Ljubinko Zivkovic
June 16, 2019
Read Play The Bird And The Bee Album Reviews
Play The Bird And The Bee
By Dan Bilawsky
June 15, 2019
Read Appleblueseagreen Album Reviews
Appleblueseagreen
By Dan McClenaghan
June 15, 2019
Read The Rolling Thunder Revue: The 1975 Live Recordings Album Reviews
The Rolling Thunder Revue: The 1975 Live Recordings
By Doug Collette
June 15, 2019