Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Mary Halvorson Quartet - John Zorn's Bagatelles Vol. 1 (Tzadik Records, 2021)

For the first part of John Zorn’s ambitious Bagatelles project, Mary Halvorson put together an extraordinary quartet featuring herself and Miles Okazaki on guitar, Drew Gress on bass and Tomas Fujiwara drums. The Bagatelles series evolved over five years leading to four groups going into the studio to play selections from 300 new selections that John Zorn composed and eventually collected into a book of music he called The Bagatelles. Hearing Mary Halvorson play in the company of another progressive guitarist like Miles Okazaki is a very exciting prospect, as they play some some wonderful daredevil improvisations, interacting with one other at a variety of tempos and gradations, with a wonderful rhythm section that can dynamically push and pull the sense and space and time that governs the music. Zorn’s compositions have the openness and flexibility which allow the musicians to interpret them in their own manner, creating exciting and innovative improvisations that invoke the spirit of freedom that makes it so special. Their version of jazz melds the electric to the acoustic in such a fashion that allows for pithy and well thought out performances where the elasticity of the bass and drums meld with the guitars which knead their electricity to generate very expressive collective improvisations. The band is playing seamlessly together and has a sound that is unique and well defined, one that can move from quiet spare rhythms to all out free jazz improvisations that evolve from the source material. With John Zorn as the fifth member providing the compositions to this determined band, their possibilities seem unlimited. John Zorn's Bagatelles - Tzadik Records

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