New Mary Halvorson Release is Reviewed


“Dragon’s Head” (Firehouse 12), the first record by the Mary Halvorson trio, is an itchy but appealing artifact of new jazz, full of tension, excitement and awkward pleasure, and very much of its moment. Ms. Halvorson uses a fragile electric guitar tone — it sounds barely amplified, and it’s quieter than Jim Hall’s — that bursts into a ball of aggressive noise every once a while. But underneath all the fun with dynamics is a good sense of composition and an almost fearless one: rather than backing into any obvious song forms, she writes as she pleases. Her songs meander, but with durable melody, stubborn purpose and a sense of humor; she steers a group with a comically aggressive drummer (Ches Smith) and a resonant, deep-toned bassist (John Hébert) through odd-meter phrases and radical rhythmic shifts.

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