All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

579

Mary Halvorson & Jessica Pavone: Thin Air

Farrell Lowe By

Sign in to view read count
The music of guitarist Mary Halvorson and violist Jessica Pavone is immediately galvanizing but comfortable, unpredictable yet composed, powerful yet subtle, vulnerable and courageous. In the rarified air of duet recordings where there are few places to hide, the music's context becomes a powerful resonator for artistic values. Thin Air is the third release by the duo, and is a rich document of the evolutionary progress their music has reached since the release of their first effort, Prairies (Lucky Kitchen, 2005).

This music is refined and carefully distilled much like a fine single malt Scotch from the rugged shores of the Highlands. With each listen there is more depth, subtlety, complexity, and harmonic hues to ponder and enjoy. Overall, there is a consistently stark and revealing quality to this music that is very attractive, even though every piece has its own distinctive nature and is driven by an individual logic. Nothing has been wasted or added to unnecessarily within the individual pieces or, conversely, to the whole.

From a production point of view, Thin Air is reminiscent of the work Robert Fripp's "audio verite" style with the singing group, The Roches, and with Daryl Hall on his Sacred Songs (RCA, 1908) solo album. From a compositional point of view, there is a shadowy likeness to David Sylvian's Blemish (Samadhi Sound, 2003), where he added vocals to Derek Bailey's pre-recorded solo guitar tracks. Another historic reference might be found in the interpretations of Li Po poems recorded by Harry Partch. Halvorson and Pavone follow a similar orbit with their vocal approach in the way they wrap the harmonies of their voices tightly around their instruments' sonorities. Half the tunes on the album feature singing, and the words and harmonies add a whole other dimension to the character of the music.

Both musicians were students of and are now collaborators with Anthony Braxton since finishing their studies at Wesleyan University, and the iconic reedman/composer's influence and spirit permeate the music. In many ways, Thin Air could easily serve as a companion piece to Braxton's 3 Compositions of New Jazz (Delmark, 1968). On both documents there is a sparse purity of melodic and rhythmic line, where the simple nakedness of the music allows the works to stand on their own. Therein lies the courageous and vulnerable nature of the music.

Pavone employs a straightforward approach to the viola, whereas Halvorson makes studied use of various effects in conjunction to her regular guitar tone. Both musicians seem to place a great deal of attention to their instrument's tone, attack, and articulation. This relationship imbues the music with an intimacy that is provocative and disarming.

Thin Air is an invitation to visit Mary Halvorson and Jessica Pavone's private world, and they prove to be very good hosts. This is an eminent document by two powerful new voices of the 21st century.


Track Listing: For You Or Them; Thin Air; Juice; Barber; Sinking; Ten Years; Lullaby; and Goodnight.

Personnel: Mary Halvorson: electric guitar, vocals; Jessica Pavone: viola, vocals.

Title: Thin Air | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Thirsty Ear Recordings

Tags

Related Video

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 Outsidethebox CD/LP/Track Review
Outsidethebox
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: October 16, 2018
Read There Are Stars In Brooklyn CD/LP/Track Review
There Are Stars In Brooklyn
by James Fleming
Published: October 16, 2018
Read The Seasons of Being CD/LP/Track Review
The Seasons of Being
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 16, 2018
Read Passages CD/LP/Track Review
Passages
by Don Phipps
Published: October 16, 2018
Read Picture in Black and White CD/LP/Track Review
Picture in Black and White
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: October 15, 2018
Read Change In The Air CD/LP/Track Review
Change In The Air
by Mark Sullivan
Published: October 15, 2018
Read "Tone Twister" CD/LP/Track Review Tone Twister
by Geannine Reid
Published: December 19, 2017
Read "D'Agala" CD/LP/Track Review D'Agala
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: March 13, 2018
Read "Live in Japan" CD/LP/Track Review Live in Japan
by Mark Corroto
Published: April 12, 2018
Read "YAZZ Band" CD/LP/Track Review YAZZ Band
by Jack Bowers
Published: July 28, 2018
Read "Homage to a Dreamer" CD/LP/Track Review Homage to a Dreamer
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: August 18, 2018
Read "Book Of Sound" CD/LP/Track Review Book Of Sound
by Gareth Thompson
Published: December 8, 2017