Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Guitarist Mary Halvorson and Her New "Saturn Sings" Recording

Some artists get a certain amount of buzz out there at a certain point in their careers. Guitarist Mary Halvorson is one of them right now. She's written about, lands some prominent gigs and comes to the fore with her latest CD Saturn Sings (Firehouse 12 FH12-04-01-013).

The album pits Halvorson and her regular trio (with Ches Smith on drums and John Hebert, bass) augmented by Jonathan Finlayson on trumpet and Jon Irabagon on alto, the latter of whom has been generating some buzz himself.

It's ten Halvorson compositions with an inside-outside approach put together for the augmented band. Heads and tonality are related to contemporary jazz trends with some quirks; solos and the rhythm section bring in the free aspects of the music to a greater or lesser degree.

There are an interesting series of numbers here and Mary Halvorson shows in her solo style what all the talk is about. She is not one for 32nd-note runs. What she does do is combine note clusters-chords with loping or angular line work and somewhat restrained episodes of skronk outness. Her treatment of chording (with or without what sounds like the whammy) gives her a distinctive sound. Her tone is usually more in the straight-ahead zone than in one of a rock-inflected effects-orientation, though there are moments of shred-tone cranked in for short intervals here and there. To hear her comp is to hear something singular.

Finlayson and Irabagon make for sympathetic and simpatico fellow front liners. They have things to say and they say them.

What you end up with is a convincing set of modern music that should appeal to jazz fanciers and guitar students out there. It is good evidence as to why the buzz about Mary isn't just talk.

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