A Summer of Mary Halvorson

Source: Artforum International.

A Summer of Mary Halvorson will tell you anything you want to know about the guitar. Her sound is as clean and strong as water, sustaining everything around it. She plays an electric archtop guitar, a Guild Artist Award issued in 1970, which is essentially an acoustic guitar with a pickup installed near the neck, where the strings sway and the body sings. The Artist Award, as Halvorson plays it, is a guide into the line and the note. Her tone serves her ideas, not the reverse. Halvorson doesn’t often distort her signal or blur what she’s presenting. She doesn’t go for clouds and sheets. If her music is jazz—and there is reason to suspect that this word may not adequately describe her practice—it is because jazz prioritizes time for the improviser, and that improviser’s voice. You can hear the lineage in Halvorson’s hands—Django, Charlie Christian, John McLaughlin, Joe Morris, and Johnny Smith—but only after you hear her. Hers is the slapback of history.