Mary Halvorson Trio / Mary Halvorson

Dragon's Head

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AllMusic Review by

Mary Halvorson emerges from the shadows of her influences to present this showcase of her unique electric guitar sound. It is an auspicious outing in that her style within the modern creative improvised idiom leaves little doubt as to her immense talent, and resounds in a listener's head with a sense of both bewilderment and satisfaction. Tracing trails of those like Sonny Sharrock, Joe Morris, Scott Fields, or Jeff Parker, Halvorson is curious about many forms of jazz and composed music, but exhibits a somewhat reckless abandon within a certain restraint, scurrying about in an endless maze of twists and turns that prove both unpredictable and yet measured. With bassist John Hebert and drummer Ches Smith, the guitarist is able to wander, ramble, discourse, use slight dissonance, harmonic richness, chords, and single lines at will to create a personalized music that moves away from identifiable sources with each passing selection. Halvorson's titles are as cryptic as her playing; "Old Nine Two Six Four Two Dies" is a mixed meter waltz macabre, "Sank Silver Purple White" in 5/4 meter switches rhythms and straddles a spiral staircase sounding like John McLaughlin, while "April April May" plods and hustles through three-note lines and chords, then lumbers again. There's some remarkable craft going on between these three musicians, and it is all intellectually driven. "Scant Frame" rolls along, goes quirky, fleet, and lithe in a staggered distended samba. The wonderfully bass laden modal piece "Totally Opaque" displays Halvorson's dark rhythmic chordal approach. Up and down dynamics, seemingly at will, identify the raw and thorny "Momentary Lapse," while an edited one-note chord with crescendos and decrescendos show yet another facet during "Sweeter Than You." Within many oblique references, this music sports a cohesion lacking in many styles of purely improvised music, and while not at all a commercially oriented project, Halvorson surely wants you to listen closely, and of course purchase this recording. It is not a stretch to tag her as not only a new voice in new music, but also a figure to watch as she develops a further extension of her already innovative approach to original 21st century sounds.

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