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About Mary Halvorson

Electric guitarist Mary Halvorson plays new improvised music that touches on various avant-garde styles of jazz and rock. Born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1980, she was determined to remove categories from the equations of her style, which range from experimental rock and modern creative music to noise. After studying near her home, she took classes at Wesleyan University, and then at the New School of Jazz & Contemporary Music upon a move to Brooklyn, New York in 2002. She then connected with an impressive array of veteran musicians steeped in the contemporary new music tradition, including a lengthy stint with Anthony Braxton. Other prominent collaborators have included Jessica Pavone, Taylor Ho Bynum, Tim Berne, Trevor Dunn, Assif Tsahar, Matana Roberts, Ted Reichman, Stephen Haynes, Curtis Hasselbring, Jason Moran, Tony Malaby, Nicole Mitchell, Elliott Sharp, and John Tchicai. Aside from performing, Halvorson has also taught at the New School, and conducted workshops in the School for Improvised Music.

Her recordings as leader include Opulence for the UgExplode label in duet with San Francisco drummer Weasel Walter and Calling All Portraits on Skycap in 2008, and Thin Air for Thirsty Ear and the critically acclaimed Dragon's Head on Firehouse 12 with bassist John Herbert and drummer Ches Smith in 2009. That same year, Halvorson and her group released the album Crackleknob. In 2011, Halvorson returned with her second duo recording with violinist Jessica Pavone, Departure of Reason. The following year, she released the quintet date Bending Bridges, and joined trumpeter Peter Evans and drummer Walter for the trio effort Mechanical Malfunction.

Ever prolific, Halvorson stayed busy over the next few years releasing a handful of projects including the 2013 septet album Illusionary Sea, the 2014 eponymous debut of the Thumbscrew trio with bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Tomas Fujiwara, and her 2015 solo effort Meltframe. She also joined drummer Tom Rainey for the 2015 trio album Hotel Grief, also featuring saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock. In 2016, Halvorson was back with bassist Formanek and drummer Fujiwara for Thumbscrew's sophomore outing, Convallaria. Also that year, she delivered the octet album Away with You. Her next project, 2017's Err Guitar, saw her working as part of an experimental guitar trio with Marc Ribot and Elliott Sharp.

In the meantime, Halvorson formed a new band for her next recording and performance project featuring her Thumbscrew collaborators Formanek and Fujiwara, as well as trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and vocalist Amirtha Kidambi from the New York improv unit Elder Ones -- classically trained in both the Indian carnatic and Western classical traditions. Halvorson, inspired by Robert Wyatt and Elliott Smith, and American postmodern poets, had been writing lyrics for years, and previously performed them in an avant-folk duo with Jessica Pavone and in the band People with Kyle Foster and Kevin Shea. Code Girl, a double-length project, went further. Musically it crisscrossed the many genres she'd already explored as a composer and arranger, but wove them into winding, labyrinthine songs that utilized those skills juxtaposed with her band's keen improvisational capabilities. The album was issued in the spring of 2018 on Firehouse 12 as the quintet toured Europe with Adam O'Farrill standing in for Akinmusire. The year proved prolific: Halvorson released three duo albums: The Maid with the Flaxen Hair: A Tribute to Johnny Smith with guitarist Bill Frisell on Tzadik, Seed Triangular with flutist Robbie Lee on New Amsterdam, and Traversing Orbits with guitarist Joe Morris on Rogue Art. In addition, her Thumbscrew trio released two albums simultaneously: Theirs (a collection of covers) and Ours (originals). She also contributed a reading of "With a Little Help from My Friends" to Verve's Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band tribute compilation, A Day in the Life: Impressions of Pepper, and played on recordings by Maria Grand (Magdalena on Biophilia) and Ingrid Laubrock (Contemporary Chaos Practices on Intakt). ~ Michael G. Nastos

Boston, Massachusetts

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