All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

435

Mary Halvorson Trio: Dragon's Head

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
A singular talent, Brooklyn-based guitarist Mary Halvorson has come into her own as a composer and improviser with her trio debut, Dragon's Head. The Wesleyan-trained guitarist's recent tours and collaborations with her former instructor, composer/multi-instrumentalist Anthony Braxton, along with cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum have helped set the stage for this stunning recording.

Although Halvorson has co-led a number of similarly intimate ensembles in the recent past—including People, her duo with drummer Kevin Shea, and an avant-folk pairing with violist Jessica Pavone—it was her appearance on Sister Phantom Owl Fish (Ipecac, 2004), the raucous sophomore album of bassist Trevor Dunn's Trio Convulsant, that brought her wide acclaim.

Dragon's Head merges her disparate interests by integrating the unfettered aggression of her work with Dunn and the unclassifiable, yet strangely appealing excursions of her recent duo recording with Jessica Pavone, On and Off, (Skirl, 2007). Halvorson, joined by a sympathetic rhythm section in the persons of bassist John Hebert and drummer Ches Smith (also of Trio Convulsant), blends pop savvy abstraction with explosive fervor as she and her band mates extrapolate her heady tunes.

These ten pieces ride a bristling undercurrent of undulating bass lines and endlessly modulating percussive patterns. Quicksilver tempo shifts, spasmodic stop-start rhythms and intervallic harmonic progressions form the basis of Halvorson's unconventional writing; Hebert and Smith navigate these turbulent waters with dexterity as Halvorson unveils a stunning array of cadences.

A fluid rhythm section with a deep rapport, Hebert and Smith's conversational interplay unfolds in a state of continuous flux. Their exceptional listening skills, elastic sense of time and wide-ranging dynamics provide Halvorson with the sort of interactive support her impulsive excursions require.

Halvorson's curious sense of melody and uncanny ability to derive resonant harmonies from fragmentary melodic kernels, jagged phrases and caustic textures reveals a remarkable skill for crafting alluring tunes from woolly abstraction; delicately picked arpeggios intermingle with bursts of unearthly EFX-driven noise that veers from lush, Hendrixian lyricism to Sharrock-inspired skronk.

Beyond the cerebral charms of her oblique harmonies and capricious melodies, Halvorson employs the full sonic range of the guitar: she is not afraid to rock. Even when she unleashes a slew of distorted riffing and scrawling guitar tones worthy of the most tenacious indie rocker, her approach towards such testosterone-fueled mayhem is decidedly more abstruse—filled with unorthodox chord voicings, splintery lines and oscillating EFX loops.

Dragon's Head is not Halvorson's first recording, yet it is the first that truly represents her full capacity as both a composer and an improviser; light years ahead of her peers, she is the most impressive guitarist of her generation. The future of jazz guitar starts here.


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

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 Lab 2018, The Rhythm of the Road CD/LP/Track Review
Lab 2018, The Rhythm of the Road
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 25, 2018
Read Live CD/LP/Track Review
Live
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: September 25, 2018
Read 8 Songs CD/LP/Track Review
8 Songs
by Roger Farbey
Published: September 25, 2018
Read Facing Dragons CD/LP/Track Review
Facing Dragons
by Chris Mosey
Published: September 25, 2018
Read Brothers CD/LP/Track Review
Brothers
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: September 24, 2018
Read The Fearless Flyers CD/LP/Track Review
The Fearless Flyers
by John Bricker
Published: September 24, 2018
Read "Departures" CD/LP/Track Review Departures
by Troy Dostert
Published: December 19, 2017
Read "Never Stop II" CD/LP/Track Review Never Stop II
by Samuel Stroup
Published: January 28, 2018
Read "The Rabbit and the Fallen Sycamore" CD/LP/Track Review The Rabbit and the Fallen Sycamore
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: June 12, 2018
Read "Attitude Manouche" CD/LP/Track Review Attitude Manouche
by Chris Mosey
Published: July 16, 2018
Read "Kurrent" CD/LP/Track Review Kurrent
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: October 17, 2017
Read "Aqustico vol 2" CD/LP/Track Review Aqustico vol 2
by Geno Thackara
Published: September 25, 2017