Sunday, September 22, 2013

Mary Halvorson Septet - Illusionary Sea (Firehouse 12, 2013)

Guitarist and composer Mary Halvorson has been become one of the most interesting musicians on the contemporary jazz scene. Whether lading a trio or larger group, or making a unique contribution to music by other vanguard artists, she plays in a manner that is all her own. This is another excellent album, where she is supported by Jonathan Finlayson on trumpet, Jon Irabagon on alto saxophone, Ingrid Laubrock on tenor saxophone, Jacob Garchik on trombone, John Hebert on bass and Ches Smith on drums. She really thrives with the extra musicians, her writing and arranging for horns is very interesting, as evidenced right away by the golden toned harmonizing horns on the opening track "Illusionary Sea (no. 33)" where she is very patient in letting them shape the pace and color of the performance before the ensemble opens up like a pair of welcoming hands for an strong pocket of improvisation. "Smiles of Great Men (no. 34)" shows her taking the lead with taught and angular guitar playing driving the horns forward with the help of stalwart bass and drums. Halvorson's playing is urgent and nearly alarming at times. Her wit and bravado shines through on the wonderfully titled "Four Pages of Robots (no. 30)" where she nimbly underpins the brass and reeds as the song develops. There is an opening for a nice saxophone solo, framed by the brass while guitar, bass and drums bubble underneath like a simmering pot. This entire album works really well, demonstrating Mary Halvorson's excellent guitar playing as well as burgeoning skill as a writer and arranger. Illusionary Sea -

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