AMN Reviews General Opinion Releases Reviews

AMN Reviews: Mary Halvorson’s Code Girl – Artlessly Falling [ Firehouse 12 Records FH12-04-01-034 ]


“Artlessly Falling” is the latest album from guitarist, composer Mary Halvorson’s group Code Girl. Halvorson has received a great deal of recognition for her unique guitar style and her unpredictable improvisational skills but it is her writing that really shines on this album. For the eight songs on “Artlessly Falling” Halvorson first wrote the lyrics, with each lyric written in a pre-existing poetic form and then set them to music. Halvorson’s songs balance poetic lyrics rich with imagery set to elaborate melodies over challenging but supportive accompaniment. “Artlessly Falling” is an evocative set of songs that will really grow on you with each listen.

For this edition of Code Girl Mary Halvorson is joined by longtime creative associates Amirtha Kidambi on vocals, Michael Formanek on bass and Tomas Fujiwara on drums, plus new collaborators Adam O’Farrill on trumpet and María Grand on tenor saxophone and vocals. They are joined by guest vocalist Robert Wyatt, who appears on three songs that Mary Halvorson wrote especially for him. It is really great to hear Wyatt’s voice on something new! Halvorson considers Wyatt to be a major influence on her and on this particular recording.  The influence is clear on the tracks Wyatt sings on but it is felt throughout the album.  The production of “Artlessly Falling” has a warm, very even, and somewhat dry sound reminiscent of albums recorded at Carla Bley’s Grog Kill Studio by Bley, Michael Mantler, and John Greaves / Peter Blegvad that featured Robert Wyatt.  It’s a great sound and Code Girl really extends that sound with their incredible imagination and musicianship.

The opening track “The Lemon Trees” begins with a nod to Wyatt’s “Sea Song”. However, this quickly becomes a very original piece. As Wyatt sings the lyric, each verse alternates with a probing trumpet commentary. That becomes a trumpet solo accompanied by the rhythm section that slowly develops into a trumpet and drum duo that transforms into a drum solo and then suddenly the ensemble is right back to the lyric. The tag ending features a bass solo beautifully accompanied by just the two female voices.

The album continues with “Last-Minute Smears” which is most likely the only song to ever use the congressional testimony of a candidate for the US Supreme Court as a found lyric.  It opens with a very “downtown” improvised intro that slowly develops into a striking ballad beautifully sung by Amirtha Kidambi. It has colorful ensemble writing plus a soulful tenor solo from María Grand. 

On “Walls and Roses” Wyatt and Kidambi sing the same introspective verses back to one another. Halvorson frames the verses with a contrasting section that allows her to wink at Jimi Hendrix as she sails off past the straits of Sonny Sharrock and Shockabilly era Eugene Chadbourne only to return with a winding melodic counterpoint between her and Kidambi.  I hope these brief descriptions of the first three tracks leave you with a sense that on “Artlessly Falling” each track is filled with surprises.

As a group Code Girl’s playing is solid and adventurous. They very easily move back and forth from the written to the improvised. This allows Code Girl to continually shift and transform their sound. It is this combination of Halvorson’s writing and the group’s interaction with both her music and one another that makes “Artlessly Falling” such an interesting listen.

Highly Recommended!

Chris De Chiara


Joey Baron: Just Say Yes

Cover of "Down Home"
Cover of Down Home

An interview with Joey Baron from All About Jazz:

Combining technical acuity with a deep sense of groove, Joey Baron drums with playful exuberance. Throughout his more than 35-year career, he’s propelled experimentalists like guitarist Bill Frisell and saxophonist John Zorn, as well as mainstreamers like vocalist Carmen McRae and saxophonist David Sanborn. He’s even played with pop stars David Bowie and Marianne Faithfull. But Baron makes no distinctions between gigs, keeping an expansive, welcoming view of music. After leading the groups Barondown, Down Home, and Killer Joey, he’s recently focused on percussion work in solo, duo, and trio settings. A rare December, 2009 solo concert at Roulette offers the chance to experience Baron’s artistry at its most distilled.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Secret Chiefs 3 Article

Trey Spruance
Image via Wikipedia

Trey Spruance of SC3 is interviewed.

Known primarily as one of the main creative forces in experimental metal group Mr. Bungle, guitarist Trey Spruance is certainly no stranger to creating genre hybrids. Along with Bungle’s other principal songwriters, Mike Patton and Trevor Dunn, Spruance took glee in mashing up rock, experimental noise, avant-garde jazz, modern classical, obscure film scores and death metal into a twisted, heaving mass. Looking back, Spruance freely admits that Bungle’s aesthetic lacked compassion.

“Mr. Bungle lacked that big-time,” he deadpans. “We were deficient, dehumanized, sub-human, wounded, fucked-up psychological terrorists, frankly. I’ve met a lot of people who were in that phase with us and came out of it on the better side. But I would be bending things to say that we were a good force in the world, though. Because I really don’t think so. Just speaking from the broader cultural context, I don’t think we had a good impact on anything.”

For what it’s worth, I liked Bungle because they were “deficient, dehumanized, sub-human, wounded, fucked-up psychological terrorists.” Sigh.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Firehouse 12 To Present Wadada Leo Smith’s Organic Resonance April 17th

Wadada Leo Smith
Image via Wikipedia

From Improvised Communications:

On Friday, April 17th, veteran trumpeter/composer Wadada Leo Smith will perform with his newest ensemble, Organic Resonance, as part of Firehouse 12’s ongoing 2009 Spring Jazz Series. Formed in early 2008, the band’s current line-up features guitarists Brandon Ross and Michael Gregory, cellist Okkyung Lee, bassists Skuli Sverisson and John Lindberg and drummer Pheeroan akLaff. Guitarist Lamar Smith will join the group as a special guest for this two-set performance, which serves as a warm-up for its debut recording session the following day.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Of Cowards and Continuations with Alex and Nels Cline

An interview with the Cline Brothers from

The Cline Brothers spent close to three decades as the “first twins” of avant-garde music before Jeff Tweedy tapped Nels Cline as the lead guitarist in Wilco shortly after the release of 2004’s A Ghost is Born. Since then Nels has scored “guitar god” status in Rolling Stone, played marquee spots at mega-fests like Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza and turned indie-hipsters and jam-aficionados alike onto his jazzy style of rock guitar playing. But, despite his late-blooming rock-star status, the 53-year old guitarist maintains a separate but equal life in the avant-garde and jazz worlds and recently released the experimental solo disc Coward. Meanwhile, his identical twin brother Alex has been balancing his work as an avant-garde drummer with a day job and, ironically, entered the studio to work on the solo album Continuation with a hand-picked ensemble the same week his brother began recording. On the eve of the Cline Brothers’ simultaneous releases, sat down with the twins to discuss their new projects, love of improvisational music and how they first bonded over Live/Dead.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Free Jazz Blog Reviews

Irene Schweizer
Image via Wikipedia

From Free Jazz:

Sunday, February 22, 2009
WHO Trio – Less Is More (Cleanfeed, 2009) *****

Saturday, February 21, 2009
Steven Bernstein, Marcus Rojas, Kresten Osgood – Tattoos and Mushrooms (ILK Music, 2009)

Thursday, February 19, 2009
Trio 3 + Irène Schweizer – Berne Concert (Intakt, 2009) ****

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]