Make a difference: Support jazz online

Support All About Jazz Your friends at All About Jazz are looking for readers to help back our website upgrade project. Of critical importance, this project will result in a vastly improved design across all devices and will make future All About Jazz projects much easier to implement. Click here to learn more about this project including donation rewards.

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

More Articles

Read Lux CD/LP/Track Review Lux
by Karl Ackermann
Published: January 20, 2018
Read Unleashed CD/LP/Track Review Unleashed
by John Sharpe
Published: January 20, 2018
Read I Think I'm Going To Eat Dessert CD/LP/Track Review I Think I'm Going To Eat Dessert
by Jerome Wilson
Published: January 20, 2018
Read 20 CD/LP/Track Review 20
by Ian Patterson
Published: January 20, 2018
Read Roppongi CD/LP/Track Review Roppongi
by Mark Sullivan
Published: January 19, 2018
Read Is Life Long? CD/LP/Track Review Is Life Long?
by Mark Corroto
Published: January 19, 2018
Read "Steve Lacy’s Saxophone Special Revisited" CD/LP/Track Review Steve Lacy’s Saxophone Special Revisited
by Mark Corroto
Published: September 29, 2017
Read "Soul Trio" CD/LP/Track Review Soul Trio
by Anthony Shaw
Published: August 24, 2017
Read "Friends & Heroes: Guitar Duets" CD/LP/Track Review Friends & Heroes: Guitar Duets
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 22, 2017
Read "Outside The Comfort Zone" CD/LP/Track Review Outside The Comfort Zone
by Roger Farbey
Published: July 24, 2017
Read "Songbook Volume 1" CD/LP/Track Review Songbook Volume 1
by Jim Olin
Published: October 12, 2017
Read "Have Yourself An Alto Madness Christmas" CD/LP/Track Review Have Yourself An Alto Madness Christmas
by Rob Rosenblum
Published: January 21, 2017