romualdo

Mary Halvorson - best place to start?

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Any recommendations on Mary Halvorson's output - where should I start?

Have there been other threads on her?

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In my view one of the most interesting and original artists of her generation both as a player and composer

Any of her leader dates with Quintet/Septet on Firehouse 12 will give you a good idea both of her playing and writing for others. The more recent 'Reverse Blue' on Relative Pitch is a very good quartet that some people felt a little restrained and might be described as more 'accessible' than the Firehouse 12s

My own entry was via Braxton - try Quintet (London) 2004 or Quartet (Moscow) 2008. Then I was bowled over by 'Dragon's Head', a guitar trio. I don't normally go for this format not being a great guitar fan but this is something else.

There's a lot more and I wouldn't want to be without, her work with MAP, Laubrock's Anti-House, Thirteenth Assembly, Crackleknob or Thumbscrew but maybe they're for when you become hooked, like me.

I know there are other fans on the board who will hopefully chime in soon

edit to add: anyone who can play what sounded very much like rockabilly riffs whilst performing with Braxton's Diamond Wall Quartet, as she did in Bristol a month or so ago, has got to be worth listening to :)

Edited by mjazzg

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I haven't listened much to her work over the past two years, at least on record, but I really dug the trio stuff with Hébert and Ches Smith. I'm not sure the quintet is totally up my alley although I did write notes for the second quintet record, and at the time was feeling the arc. Going back to it later it's interesting but doesn't jolt me the way the trio disc did. There's a preciousness and a studied 'oomph' that I wish was a little more fluid.

Thumbscrew I've enjoyed more live than on record - nice trio with Formanek and Fujiwara. I'm also pretty into the two trio discs with Weasel Walter and Peter Evans - that stuff is warped!

Looking forward to her solo guitar album and, from a different perspective, totally on board with the indie rock band she's part of, People. "Skin Graft-lite" as a friend put it, and that seems accurate.


Thanks for the reminder on MAP - earlier, heavy stuff with the great percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani.

I like Anti-House and the Tom Rainey Trio a lot, though approach it more from the Laubrock-Rainey perspective than the Halvorson perspective.

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Can't claim to have more than touched on her records but she's certainly the most interesting guitarist I've heard in a while - a very independent voice. Someone I'd very much like to see live.

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Seen her live a few times, in different settings - and indeed, the trio with Hébert/Smith was the one I enjoyed most.

Alas, she doesn't seem to travel with her regular gear (instead using smaller, probably less valuable/dear-to-her guitars). But nonetheless, I'd strongly suggest to check her out in concert!

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One of those great musicians that I'm fortunate to be able to see live fairly often. Like Clifford, the quintet is very nice but somewhat studied (I have similar issues with Anti-House). Good live but nothing on the order of hearing Mary with Ingrid and Tom. Recently I heard her with Jon Irabagon and Nasheet Waits and her and the great drummer both played as if possessed.

I'd like to hear her live with any of the bass/drum teams mentioned above and I will be making sure that happens this year.

Without question, for me, the most exciting guitarist playing today.

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Agreed that you can't go wrong with any of the leader dates, or the work with Braxton. Seconding Clifford on the trio with Peter Evans and Weasel Walter, which is my favorite outlet of hers.

People, the duo with Jessica Pavone, and Thirteenth Assembly are shakier ground AFAIC.

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I think Reverse Blue simply showed off some versatility. It's more accessible than some of her dates but I've yet to find one I've not thoroughly enjoyed. She's a major talent with a highly individual voice. "Dragon's Head" was my intro and as good a place to start as any.

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mjazzg covered things rather nicely, but from my perspective, ratcheting down the possibilities, I would pick Thumbscrew, as it gives perhaps the clearest view of Halvorson as a guitarist. I would add Illusionary Sea to get a sense on how she sounds in a larger group of her making.

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I would add Illusionary Sea to get a sense on how she sounds in a larger group of her making.

:tup

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People and the Halvorson-Pavone duo are not really improvised music - more weird rock or weirdo chamber pop/folk stuff.

I'd forgotten about the Thirteenth Assembly. The second disc is really good - I'm less into the first.

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People and the Halvorson-Pavone duo are not really improvised music - more weird rock or weirdo chamber pop/folk stuff.

Right. I would argue that's it's done... not so well.

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Forgot Opulence, the do with Weasel. A good one.

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Whatever you do, stay away from "Saturn Sings" (2010). Sounds like she took a few guitar lessons since then.

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ha, I actually like that one quite a bit. The balance between improvisation and knotty contemporary rock structures (i.e., Polvo) is pretty cool. Seems to work better w/o horns in my opinion.

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ha, I actually like that one quite a bit. The balance between improvisation and knotty contemporary rock structures (i.e., Polvo) is pretty cool. Seems to work better w/o horns in my opinion.

With Ingrid Laubrock, she is fantastic. First time I saw the trio with Rainey & Laubrock was in 2011 - second set @ The Stone - following an expected my incredible Schweizer/Favre duo - and I thought they almost upstaged the legendary pianist/drummer duet partners.

Mary had plenty of lessons by then.....

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Saturn Sings, along with Dragons Head, i guess were kind of her break out albums. From memory Saturn Sings was on on top or near the top of so many 'Top Ten' lists that year. Anyway, my impression was that it was a bit of a big deal (or relatively anyway) at the time. I remember liking it but thinking it was a bit overrated at first. It grew on me and on my last revisit (maybe about a year ago?) i felt like it had held up nicely for what it is. I feel like i have heard progression with each of her leader dates on Firehouse 12 since then, and my admiration has grown deeper with each album.

Best place to start is hard to pick, but for me she's definitely an artist where more is more, in depth listening over more than a couple of albums pays dividends. It's such a pleasure to be able to follow along in real time and hear her story as it unfolds.

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yummy

I've already stated before that I find Mary dreamy.

I'm only familiar with her studio work, and highly recommend it all. She's either as talented as she is beautiful, or verse vica...

​I guess it can argued that she is the best modern Jazz artist? I'll gladly take up that cause…

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yummy

I've already stated before that I find Mary dreamy.

I'm only familiar with her studio work, and highly recommend it all. She's either as talented as she is beautiful, or verse vica...

​I guess it can argued that she is the best modern Jazz artist? I'll gladly take up that cause

Scott - the whole circle that she surrounds herself with are filled with brilliant musicians. They may vary with different strengths and weaknesses - but there are at least a dozen of them that are very accomplished on their own right.

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I don't doubt that one bit, Steve.

And you know I take your word very seriously concerning the subject. I need to explore this circle more closely.

Edited by Scott Dolan

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I don't doubt that one bit, Steve.

And you know I take your word very seriously concerning the subject. I need to explore this circle more closely.

My favorites of the locals that are closely or somewhat related to her that I think very highly of include Ches Smith, Ingrid Laubrock, Tom Rainey, Tony Malaby, Taylor Ho Bynum, John Hebert, Thomas Fujiwara, Mat Maneri, Kris Davis and Nasheet Waits, among others.

Of course there are more well known musicians like Tim Berne, Anthony Braxton that she learned from - but the above group (and many others) are all extraordinary improvisors, Some of them, IMO - including Mary - are among the greatest musicians in the world.

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as usual your input/recommendations are greatly appreciated - what accolades!!

I didn't realise that Mary was on the Braxton Iridium set (she even contributes to the liner notes) & live in Moscow (both of which I have) - will have a listen

But, I would like to hear her in a leader context - will pick up some of her discs recommended here with my next Import CDs order

Edited by romualdo

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Regarding 'looks' I mean, sure, I agree, but getting to know her as a human being/improviser trumps everything else...

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