The Thirteenth Assembly was founded as a touring collective that appeals to promoters' predilection for booking multiple acts on a single night. Guitarist Mary Halvorson, violist Mary Halvorson/Jessica Pavone Duo, cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum and drummer Tomas Fujiwara have longstanding duo and trio permutations and to end their concerts, they convene as a quartet and have forged a distinct identity from the subgroups within.
Halvorson's brief, wistful "Unfinished Ballad" opens the CD, but Pavone's "Army of Strangers" is a better introduction. The insouciantly syncopated viola/cornet theme floats over a funky vamp from the guitarist's bass-like line and Fujiwara's thick groove. Diffuse abstraction introduces Bynum's "Bird Dog," but form eventually emerges with a driving beat and distorted guitar supporting a dramatic brass/string theme. Conversely, Halvorson's "Pinched" opens with bashing drums and a staccato theme and the line lengthens until it's broken by drum fills, eliciting spare viola and cornet smears for the fade away.
Fujiwara's "Chantal" starts amorphously, then he lays down a fleet Latin-y beat for Halvorson's repeating single-note run, accented by plucked viola under a soaring cornet. The intensity builds with denser strumming, devolving to a freer section with distorted, spacey guitar textures, before an elegant horn emerges for gentle denouement. A bent guitar and quasi-folksy viola theme characterize Pavone's "Hate Fields," cornet providing textural harmonic contrast and drums marking the lugubrious tempo.
With committed performances drawn from intertwined histories and diverse stylistic influences, The Thirteenth Assembly exemplifies how a practical strategy can reveal a novel creative opportunity.
Track Listing: Unfinished Ballad; Army of Strangers; Bird Dog; P#2; Pinched; Chantal; Too Sweet; Never Before; Hate Fields.
Personnel: Taylor Ho Bynum: cornet; Jessica Pavone: viola; Mary Halvorson: guitar; Tomas Fujiwara: drums.
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