Sunday, September 06, 2015

Mary Halvorson - Meltframe (Firehouse 12, 2015)

One of the most highly regarded guitarists on the modern jazz scene, this is Mary Halvorson’s first completely solo guitar album. It is made up of compositions from musicians as diverse as Roscoe Mitchell, Ornette Coleman, and Oliver Nelson and colleagues like Chris Lightcap, Noel Akchote, and Thomas Fujiwara. “Cascades” opens the album with sharps and slabs of heavy physical electric guitar. She moves the music up and down with great energy from piercing high pitched squeals to low growling rumbles in a very exciting manner. There is a more hollow sound to “Blood” where she strums and allows the music to operate in a more spacious atmosphere, offering hints of melody before turning darker and ghostly. “Sadness” has an opaque sensibility, haunting and reverberating while adding subtle percussive elements. There is a shaded tone to this performance but the playing is strong and alluring in a resolute fashion. Halvorson probes the music of “Aisha” before allowing her guitar to ring and then explode unexpectedly into a massive near heavy metal riff that drops off as quickly as it comes like an unexpected thunderstorm appearing on the horizon. The epic dynamics between the jazzy improvisation and the two shattering bursts of grinding, guttural volume keeps the music unpredictable and very interesting. “Platform” has laser like zaps of electricity juxtaposed by overdriven slabs of sound. This is excellent heavy rock (she did a stint opening for The Melvins and then King Buzzo solo, so this is definitely part of her skill set as well) embedding the laser sounds within the grating edifice of heavy guitar makes for thrillingly molten postmodern fusion that seemingly comes from everywhere at once. Switching gears on a dime, “When” has a hook and a riff so accessible that it seemingly cries out for lyrics and the indie rock treatment. The music then circles around to rocket out into space, leaving such conceits behind, as does the closing song, “Leola” which is quite abstract and nimble. The music becomes faster and even more complex, continuously rotating and coming in form different angles, which are never predicable. It is interesting to see which musicians she sees as inspirations and even more so to see how she interprets their music. The finest tribute to another musician is when you use their raw materials to craft a statement all your own as Mary Halvorson shows on this wonderful album. Meltframe -

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