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Mary Halvorson Quintet - Saturn Sings (Firehouse 12, 2010)

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Adventurous guitarist and composer Mary Halvorson has been garnering much attention for her work as a collaborator and side person on several notable albums. After taking time to compose new material for quintet, she is back in the leader position, working with Jonathan Finlayson on trumpet, Jon Irabagon on alto saxophone, John Hebert on bass and Ches Smith on drums. The album is an interesting and angular proposition that takes its inspiration from avant-garde jazz, rock music and other sources but remains true to the muse of Halvorson and her colleagues. “Leak Over Six Five (No. 14)" opens the album with horns gliding in over guitar, bass and drums in an agreeable fashion. Irabagon steps out over deep bass and builds to a nice fast paced solo. Free-ish guitar accents the music making for a cool sounding improvisation. Bass and drums open “Sequential Tears In It (No. 20)" with guitar slowly developing, probing quietly and gracefully in a complex and thoughtful manner. The full band plays up-tempo on “Mile High Like (No. 16)" with fast and frenetic guitar and horns over drums giving way dynamically to open sounding trumpet that develops some really exciting interplay amongst the other instruments. “Moon Traps In Seven Rings (No. 17)" has a solo bass introduction, developing into wild cells of improvisation. After a dexterous drum solo there is a dramatic shift in tempo as saxophone and guitar intertwine, then trumpet and guitar with a wild guitar shredding building to a wonderful conclusion. “Sea Seizure (No. 19)"is a compelling trio performance focusing on aggressive scorching guitar in spots, shifting from loud to medium in a very compelling manner. A lush mid-tempo opening begins “Crack In Sky (No. 11)" with horns and subtle guitar weaving spacious sound textures. The group takes their time exploring the music in a patient and dignified manner, with the horns nicely framing the conclusion. “Right Size Too Little (No. 12)" has a choppy medium-up feel, moving into a heavy—light dichotomy. Swinging dark flavored guitar gets progressively wilder with a sense of impish humor that enlivens the music. Funk-ish horns open “Crescent White Singe (No. 13)" before allowing horns and guitar to improvise a theme. Swirling trumpet and snarling guitar spar in an exciting fashion before shifting back to the nimble full band theme. Irabagon then develops a potent saxophone solo, accented with guitar. Slowly developing and spacey, “Cold Mirrors (No. 15)" switches back to the trio format with Halvorson improvising along with understated brushes and bass in a slow and probing manner. “Saturn Sings (No. 18)" concludes the album with a fast full band theme, building to a complex improvisation and finale. This was a very well played and consistently unpredictable album. Reminiscent of the complex yet accessible music of Henry Threadgill, Halvorson has developed her own unique conception of jazz, and it is very exciting to hear. Saturn Sings—amazon.com

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This story appears courtesy of Music and More by Tim Niland.
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