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Halvorson, Mary: Meltframe (Firehouse 12 Records)

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".

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product information:

UPC: 616892303343

Label: Firehouse 12 Records
Catalog ID: 4021
Squidco Product Code: 21831

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2015
Country: USA
Packaging: Digipack
Recorded at Firehouse 12 on November 4th and 5th, 2014, by Nick Lloyd.


Mary Halvorson-guitar

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Artist Biographies:

"One of improvised music's most in-demand guitarists, Mary Halvorson has been active in New York since 2002, following jazz studies at Wesleyan University and the New School. Critics have called her "a singular talent" (Lloyd Sachs, JazzTimes), "NYC's least-predictable improviser" (Howard Mandel, City Arts), "one of the most exciting and original guitarists in jazz-or otherwise" (Steve Dollar, Wall Street Journal), and "one of today's most formidable bandleaders" (Francis Davis, Village Voice). The Philadelphia City Paper's Shaun Brady adds, "Halvorson has been steadily reshaping the sound of jazz guitar in recent years with her elastic, sometimes-fluid, sometimes-shredding, wholly unique style."

After three years of study with visionary composer and saxophonist Anthony Braxton, Ms. Halvorson became an active member of several of his bands, including his trio, septet and 12+1tet. To date, she appears on six of Mr. Braxton's recordings. Ms. Halvorson has also performed alongside iconic guitarist Marc Ribot, in his bands Sun Ship and The Young Philadelphians, and with the bassist Trevor Dunn in his Trio-Convulsant. Over the past decade she has worked with such diverse bandleaders as Tim Berne, Taylor Ho Bynum, Tomas Fujiwara, Ingrid Laubrock, Myra Melford, Jason Moran, Joe Morris, Tom Rainey and Mike Reed.

As a bandleader and composer, one of Ms. Halvorson's primary outlets is her longstanding trio, featuring bassist John Hébert and drummer Ches Smith. Since their 2008 debut album, Dragon's Head, the band has been recognized as a rising star jazz band by Downbeat Magazine for five consecutive years. Ms. Halvorson's quintet, which adds trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson and alto saxophonist Jon Irabagon to the trio, has released two critically acclaimed albums on the Firehouse 12 label: Saturn Sings and Bending Bridges. Most recently she has added two additional band members-tenor saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and trombonist Jacob Garchik-to form a septet, featured on her 2013 release Illusionary Sea. Ms. Halvorson also co-leads a longstanding chamber-jazz duo with violist Jessica Pavone, the avant-rock band People and the collective ensembles Thumbscrew and Secret Keeper."

-Mary Halvorson Website (

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track listing:

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
sample the album:

descriptions, reviews, &c.

"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

Get additional information at Pitchfork Media
Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
Guitarists, &c.
Solo Artist Recordings
NY Downtown & Jazz/Improv
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