NY guitarist Mary Halvorson's solo album, worked out after a tour opening for King Buzzo, has her performing creative interpretations of works from modern composers like Roscoe Mitchell, Ornette Coleman, Oliver Nelson, & Tomas Fujiwara, back to Duke Ellington's "Solitude".
Label: Firehouse 12 Records
Released in: USA
"Mary Halvorson's Meltframe is the product of three years of gestation and refinement. Initially conceived as a solo guitar album made up of jazz standards, the final document is comprised of modern compositions long admired by Mary, the oldest being Duke Ellington's "Solitude." The remainder of the pieces date from the early 1960s, through to Tomas Fujiwara's contemporary "When."
In a twist befitting a player with such an original voice, the compositions Mary chose to interpret are not exclusively from composers who have informed her playing and music from the beginning (such as Roscoe Mitchell, Ornette Coleman, and Oliver Nelson), but also by contemporaries: Chris Lightcap, Noel Akchote, and Fujiwara. Viewed as the personal - and often revealing - statement that solo documents often are, Meltframe traces Mary's path from the beginning to the present."-Firehouse 12
"Mary Halvorson owns one of the more easily identifiable guitar sounds you will encounter, in any genre. That is partly due to an ingenious effect: a delay pedal that she uses as a startling, mid-note pitch-shifter. But if she didnÕt have anything to offer beyond that novelty, her playing wouldnÕt sustain the three modern jazz groups she currently heads (a trio, a quintet and a septet), as well as her sought-after work in various other ensemblesŃincluding two different bands led by jazz guitar luminary and occasional Tom Waits sideman Marc Ribot. With her quick, experimentalistÕs mind, Halvorson resembles the great composer, saxophonist and teacher Anthony Braxton (an early instructor of hers, with whom she still collaborates). On her new album Meltframe, a set of guitar covers, she is simultaneously employing two suggestions from her former professorÕs syllabus: develop a solo act, and donÕt forget to engage with the past.
Halvorson is well respected in the jazz community for the speed with which she can conceive of strong ideas. In the midst of a fleet improvisation you might hear her becoming progressively enamored of some small portion of a given melody, selecting it for additional repetition within the flow of a solo. Next, sheÕs slowing the tempo and turning the fragment into a rollicking vamp, while switching her amplifierÕs tone. As youÕre appreciating the rhythmic change, you may not immediately notice that sheÕs also creating a new path back toward the full theme. But when she returns to the original hook, the culmination is as satisfying as any single effect she may have used for punctuation along the way.
MeltframeÕs tracklist was refined during her stint as the opener for an acoustic tour by King Buzzo of the Melvins. If at first it seems like a self-consciously idiosyncratic grab bag (Duke Ellington and Ornette Coleman?), as usual, Halvorson has a plan. She links these two composers in the albumÕs sequencing via mournful tune-selection, but uses different methods of attack to preserve a distinction. Slide-playing and tuning quirks grace her performance of ColemanÕs "Sadness" (while recalling something of the composerÕs own "harmolodics" concept). Then, she slows DukeÕs "Solitude" way down, using a delicate reverb to provide the sparest of pulses. Her playing shines in both performances. Nor is a conceptual subtlety the only thing Meltframe has going for it. The opening number is a finger-busting, grungy take on Oliver NelsonÕs "Cascades"Ńa song aptly titled, given its quickly swooping figures. Those familiar with NelsonÕs soulful hard-bop sound may be tempted to wrinkle a nose at the interpretive move, here, but they shouldnÕt: HalvorsonÕs recourse to the distortion pedal successfully underlines what an imposing riff-writer this composer was. A high energy approach also predominates during the back half of HalvorsonÕs exciting reinterpretation of McCoy TynerÕs "Aisha" (which features on the John Coltrane album Olˇ Coltrane).
Halvorson also tosses recent pieces by contemporaries like Tomas Fujiwara and Chris Lightcap into her mix. These cuts donÕt always carry the melodic jolt of the certified classics, but HalvorsonÕs performances show how todayÕs jazz still works with an awareness of popular textures, including indie rock (as with the noisy drone section she creates when playing LightcapÕs "Platform"). Surely, HalvorsonÕs most personal statements are still found on the albums where her own compositions rule. Though by liquefying some of the curatorial borders that surround jazz in the popular imagination, Meltframe refocuses our attention on an essential malleability that is the genreÕs core tradition."-Seth Colter Walls, Pitchfork Medi
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Shipping Weight: 2.00 units
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Label: Firehouse 12 Records
Catalog ID: 4021
Squidco Product Code: 21831
Recorded at Firehouse 12 on November 4th & 5th, 2014, by Nick Lloyd.
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1. Cascades 4:09
2. Blood 4:07
3. Cheshire Hotel 3:03
4. Sadness 3:41
5. Solitude 5:49
6. Ida Lupino 4:19
7. Aisha 5:21
8. Platform 5:23
9. When 3:59
10. Leola 3:33