Thursday, March 29, 2018

Mary Halvorson - Code Girl (Firehouse 12, 2018)

Guitarist Mary Halvorson put together this experienced quintet to play her original music, with members from different musical backgrounds focused on bringing her compositions to life. The rest of the band consists of Amirtha Kidambi on vocals, Ambrose Akinmusire on trumpet, Michael Formanek on bass and Tomas Fujiwara on drums and the music was recorded in mid December of 2016 at Firehouse 12. “Pretty Mountain” evolves into some powerful wordless, near operatic vocal improvisation framed by sharp drumming, and Kidambi solos with the impressive confidence equal to any of the instrumentalists. Halvorson really catches fire on “Possibility of Lighting” where she takes a scalding guitar solo, flinging notes outward as if possessed by a whirling dervish, focusing on dark, intense squalls, used to punctuate her solo. “Off the Record” a purely instrumental performance has a sense of loping swing, and a bright and colorful trumpet opening. Halvorson’s guitar is witty and pointed, sending out sparkling notes that tumble together amidst the solid foundation of bass and drums. There is a gradually evolving process to “In the Second Before” where the music dramatically grows as if of its own accord, before coming to a head an an epic all out free jazz conclusion of squalling sound and passionate playing. An excellent trumpet solo enlivens “The Beast” along side thick and resonant bass, soaring vocals and restrained drumming. There is a sparkling guitar solo at the center of “The Unexpected Natural Phenomenon” with stoic bass and drums in firm support as the guitar notes stretch and warp like taffy in the sun, building a blindingly intense fantasia that is soon joined by briskly played trumpet as the band lifts off of their own inertia, incorporating a fantastic drum solo framed by sparkling trumpet, and heading to a corrosive collective finish. There is a crisply played full band intro to “Thunderhead” that moves to an exploratory yet melodic brass interlude. Guitar notes hang in space like a gentle snowfall, twirling amidst the eddies of musical flow, whereas “Deepest Similar” is a feature for towering vocals gradually rising into artful streams that recall Linda Sharrock. “Drop the Needle” has declaratory vocals and the leader develops a quavering and watery guitar solo, with a post-modern psychedelic flair, one that is open minded in mood but without too much strangeness, which is a perfect setting for the restrained trumpet and bass to flourish. This was a very successful project, with Halvorson’s daring compositions and soloing combining jazz with an arty post rock sensibility to create a sound that the is genuinely unique and memorable. Code Girl -

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