435

Mary Halvorson Trio: Dragon's Head

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
Mary Halvorson Trio: Dragon's Head 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

More Articles

Read Roll On CD/LP/Track Review Roll On
by Jack Bowers
Published: July 25, 2017
Read BACHanalia CD/LP/Track Review BACHanalia
by Jerome Wilson
Published: July 25, 2017
Read Pandora's Bag CD/LP/Track Review Pandora's Bag
by Geannine Reid
Published: July 25, 2017
Read Float The Edge CD/LP/Track Review Float The Edge
by Glenn Astarita
Published: July 25, 2017
Read The Attic CD/LP/Track Review The Attic
by John Sharpe
Published: July 24, 2017
Read Outside The Comfort Zone CD/LP/Track Review Outside The Comfort Zone
by Roger Farbey
Published: July 24, 2017
Read "Morph" CD/LP/Track Review Morph
by Tyran Grillo
Published: March 2, 2017
Read "Dawg Yawp" CD/LP/Track Review Dawg Yawp
by Jim Trageser
Published: October 29, 2016
Read "Avalon" CD/LP/Track Review Avalon
by Geno Thackara
Published: May 9, 2017
Read "Mata Hati" CD/LP/Track Review Mata Hati
by Dave Wayne
Published: March 10, 2017
Read "Double Mirror" CD/LP/Track Review Double Mirror
by Jerome Wilson
Published: July 8, 2017
Read "Luma" CD/LP/Track Review Luma
by Geannine Reid
Published: March 28, 2017

Support All About Jazz: MAKE A PURCHASE  

Support our sponsor

Upgrade Today!

Musician? Boost your visibility at All About Jazz and drive traffic to your website with our Premium Profile service.

Donate!