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Critics call her a singular talent, the most impressive guitarist of her generation. Mary Halvorson has been steadily reshaping the sound of jazz guitar with her elastic, wholly unique style. A fixture in avant-garde and improvisational music circles, the 35-year-old guitarist is just as likely to pick out intricate, harmonically and melodically complex lines of stunning beauty as she is to unleash a violent spray of atonal, harshly distorted six-string noise. Halvorson was raised in Boston and is currently based in Brooklyn. She spent three formative years at Wesleyan University studying and playing with visionary composer and saxophonist Anthony Braxton. She became an active member of several of his bands, including his trio, septet and 12+1tet. To date, she appears on six of Braxton's recordings. Halvorson has also performed alongside iconic guitarist Marc Ribot in his bands Sun Ship and The Young Philadelphians, and with the bassist Trevor Dunn in his Trio-Convulsant. Over the past decade, she has worked with such diverse bandleaders as Tim Berne, Taylor Ho Bynum, Tomas Fujiwara, Ingrid Laubrock, Myra Melford, Jason Moran, Joe Morris, Tom Rainey and Mike Reed.
As a bandleader and composer, one of Halvorson's primary outlets is her longstanding trio, featuring bassist John Hebert and drummer Ches Smith. Since their 2008 debut album, Dragon's Head, the band has been recognized as a rising star jazz band by Downbeat Magazine for five consecutive years. Halvorson's quintet, which adds trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson and alto saxophonist Jon Irabagon to the trio, has released two critically acclaimed albums on the Firehouse 12 label: Saturn Sings and Bending Bridges. Most recently she has added two additional band members – tenor saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and trombonist Jacob Garchik – to form a septet, featured on her 2013 release Illusionary Sea. Ms. Halvorson also co-leads a longstanding chamber-jazz duo with violist Jessica Pavone, the avant-rock band People and the collective ensembles Thumbscrew and Secret Keeper.
Asked about the material in Meltframe – her first solo CD, released last year, Halvorson said, "I'm not a 'tunes' player, but I practice a lot of standards for technique and to expand my knowledge of harmony. So arranging standards for solo guitar seemed natural. But pretty quickly I expanded beyond standards to any pieces that I like – compositions by friends, or things a little outside the standard repertoire, like Roscoe Mitchell or Annette Peacock. … I tried to create diversity and have the pieces fall in as broad a range of techniques and arrangements as I could, so it wouldn't feel like everything was in the same style with the same approach."
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