Primary Instrument: Guitar
The success of her acclaimed 2008 debut, Dragon’s Head (Firehouse 12 Records), led critics to call Ms. Halvorson “probably the most original jazz guitarist to emerge this decade” (Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader) and “the freshest, busiest, most critically acclaimed guitar-slinger out of downtown Manhattan/Brooklyn right now” (Howard Mandel, Jazz Beyond Jazz).
“A singular talent,” adds AllAboutJazz.com’s Troy Collins, “Brooklyn-based guitarist Mary Halvorson has come into her own as a composer and improviser…light years ahead of her peers, she is the most impressive guitarist of her generation. The future of jazz guitar starts here.”
A veteran of the ensembles of esteemed saxophonist/composer Anthony Braxton, Ms. Halvorson has been active in New York since 2002, following jazz studies at Wesleyan University and the New School. In addition to her trio, which also recently expanded to a quintet, she co-leads a chamber music duo with violist Jessica Pavone and the avant-rock project, People, with drummer Kevin Shea.
She has also performed in ensembles led by Tim Berne, Taylor Ho Bynum, Trevor Dunn, Curtis Hasselbring, Tony Malaby, Myra Melford, Nicole Mitchell, Jason Moran, Tom Rainey, Marc Ribot, Matana Roberts, Elliott Sharp, John Tchicai and Matthew Welch among many others.
Her latest release is Saturn Sings (Firehouse 12 Records).
--Jason Moran, New York Magazine
Frequently lauded as the most original and innovative guitarist
of her generation, Halvorson's unorthodox virtuosity has
positioned her at the creative forefront of the youthful
Brooklyn scene. Demonstrating growth as a composer on ten
new pieces conceived primarily for her Quintet, Halvorson's
embrace of contrapuntal harmonies and modular structures
reveals a multi-faceted artist whose writing is as impressive
as her improvising.
--Troy Collins, Point of Departure
I think she’s a very interesting musician.
--John Fordham, BBC 3's Jazz on 3
...Halvorson’s is a devastatingly original voice.
--Marcus O'Dair, the artsdesk.com
...one of the most interesting musicians in the contemporary
jazz and improvised music constellation.
--Mike Chamberlain, HOUR
Part of why so many jazz insiders are down with her is clearly
her guitar style. Man. It's a sound that takes clean, woody
articulation, then ruptures it: Clashing broken chords, fallaway
bent strings, dissonant note choices, outright rock shredding.
It's crazy, in that good, mouth agape, how did she do that,
and why does it seem to make sense? sort of way.
--Patrick Jarenwattananon, NPR’s A Blog Supreme
Even when Halvorson summons her crisp, clear-toned runs,
pitch bends and brittle spidery arpeggios -- echoing the
combined crafts of Nels Cline, Joe Morris and Derek Bailey --
in relatively conventional settings, her propensity for shape-
shifting never fails to dazzle. While she may be receiving most
attention for her moves located at jazz’s periphery, it’s the
music Halvorson constructs from the form’s raw materials
that continue to bear the sweetest fruit.
--Spencer Grady, BBC Music
Mary Halvorson might be the most original jazz guitarist in a
generation. But she’s a composer, too, and (despite lots of
unique six-string work) that’s where the focus lies on her
challenging but riveting second album, Saturn
with her playing, her tunes evade convention...it’s Halvorson’s
writing that makes all this creativity possible. Her innovative
guitar playing is an essential component -- but riding on such
high-grade material, it feels more like a bonus.
--Michael J. West, Washington City Paper
Halvorson has been ubiquitous lately, appearing on recent
albums by Ches Smith's These Arches quartet (Finally
of My Hands), Tomas Fujiwara and The Hook Up
(Actionspeak) and the Tom Rainey Trio
School), all of whom are drummers, conspicuously
enough. These are all worth a listen because, honestly, Mary
Halvorson is the most future-seeking guitarist working right
now, thinking out the instrument on a level most couldn't
comprehend. But Halvorson's compositions display that
exploration with a telepathic connection between her fingers
and the sound, making Saturn Sings her
document to date.
--Lars Gotrich, NPR.org
Outside but also inside, adventurous but also accessible,
Saturn Sings is a new sound from a new star.
--Chris May, AllAboutJazz.com