Why Mary Halvorson Sounds Like No Other Guitarist 

English: Mary Halvorson, Jazz guitarist; Pictu...

Source: NPR.

When you see Mary Halvorson on stage, she doesn’t look like much of a trailblazer. She plays sitting down. She’s small, and mostly hidden behind her hollow-body guitar and glasses. But then she starts to play. And the sounds coming out of her amp are anything but conventional.

“I do like things that are unexpected,” Halvorson says. “I often don’t like music that’s predictable, so you know what’s coming next. I like to throw in things that maybe are a little less predictable.”

Cecil Taylor At Antioch

Cecil Taylor at moers festival 2008

Source: WYSO.

The American jazz pianist Cecil Taylor is a pioneer of what is called free jazz—music which often discards notated scores and breaks with meter and conventional harmonic progression. Now 87, his first recordings were released in the 1950s. In the late 1960s and early 70s Taylor taught at Antioch College and recordings from his years in Yellow Springs are found in the WYSO archives.

The Scores of Wadada Leo Smith

Wadada Leo Smith

Source: The Hum Blog.

Over the course of the last week – as the fate of America, and specters of race, have occupied so many of our minds, my thoughts kept falling back toward Ishmael Wadada Leo Smith’s masterpiece Ten Freedom Summers. In my view, the work is among the most important compositions to emerge in the last 100 years. It should, and does, by that count, stand on its own as a triumph of organized sound – but it is also a work whose context should not (and arguably can not) be discounted. Wadada Leo Smith is unquestionably one of the most significant and singular composers working today – not to mention his towering accomplishments as a musician and improvisor. Ten Freedom Summers, which was begun in 1977 (loosely at the instigation of Leroy Jenkins) and completed in 2011, is his crown jewel (to date) – structured around themes and figures associated with the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s, and the effect of that movement on the psychology of America as an entity.

The Music That Made Ennio Morricone

English: Ennio Morricone at the Cannes film fe...

Source: HITC.

In the extended title sequence of Sergio Leone’s epic 1968 western Once Upon a Time in the West, three vengeful-looking gunslingers await the arrival of the next train at the remote Cattle Corner Station. Not a word is shared between them. Instead, caught in vivid closeup like the lines ingrained on the weathered skin of their faces, it’s the sounds that tell a story: chalk screeches across a blackboard; water drips on to the brim of a hat and, in the dead stillness of the desert outside, a windpump gently squeaks. Even before knuckles are cracked, pistols are cocked and the man they’ve been waiting to kill announces his arrival with three mournful notes on a harmonica, it’s clear that things are about to turn ugly.

Anthony Braxton Interviewed and Profiled

Anthony Braxton playing a contrabass saxophone

Source: Herald Scotland.

Braxton is a 71-year-old saxophonist and composer who has made huge contributions to jazz over his 50-year career but who has spent most of that time taking umbrage with the term. “As a black man with a saxophone,” says Bynum, “he is most often lumped into the category, regardless of whether he is leading a quartet or conducting an opera!” Bynum suggests that Braxton and his peers “exploded those definitions from the very beginning”, because the music they played drew on way too many traditions (jazz, improv, various strains of contemporary classical) to fit into one label. And it was a two way thing: Braxton was cold-shouldered by arbiters of the neo-conservative jazz establishment like Wynton Marsalis because his unbound sounds didn’t quote the right trumpet solos, didn’t stick to the right modes, didn’t swing the way they wanted it to.

The Julius Eastman Revival

Source: The New York Times.

Eastman performances are burgeoning, including a concert planned for February at the Burchfield Penney Art Center in Buffalo, where he spent his most productive years. The Philadelphia new-music organization Bowerbird is in the midst of a multiyear Eastman retrospective and is planning a festival for May that the group hopes to repeat in New York next fall. Bowerbird is also working to create dependable editions of his most important works to avoid the errors that have crept into some recent performances.

Mary Halvorson Profiled and Interviewed

English: Mary Halvorson, Jazz guitarist; Pictu...

Source: The New York Times.

There’s no other sound in music precisely like Mary Halvorson’s guitar, which she plays with a flinty attack, a spidery finesse and a shiver of wobbly delay. At National Sawdust in Brooklyn last Saturday, that sound was an unmistakable force during a prime-time stretch of John Zorn’s bagatelles marathon, which featured 20 groupings of musicians over a 10-hour concert sprawl.

In the last dozen years, Ms. Halvorson has turned this sort of startling, off-kilter fluency into a strong aesthetic signature. She is the most critically acclaimed jazz guitarist to emerge in that span, an unflinching original who has revealed new possibilities within the music.