Artlessly Falling

Artlessly Falling

With Artlessly Falling, the follow-up to her acclaimed 2018 release, Code Girl, guitarist and MacArthur Fellow Mary Halvorson takes an already intriguing quintet lineup and slightly but significantly expands it. By adding Maria Grand not only on tenor saxophone but also vocals, she manages to create a small de facto horn section (Grand with trumpeter Adam O’Farrill) as well as a kind of mini-choir (Grand with vocalist Amirtha Kidambi). The resulting harmonized lines and ethereal passages broaden Halvorson’s compositional reach. Bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Tomas Fujiwara bring out all sorts of textural and interactive elements and power the rhythm forward during charged improvisations. But the most beguiling presence of all has to be that of Robert Wyatt, UK art-rock pioneer and founding member of Soft Machine—a longtime hero of Halvorson’s who makes an exception to his announced 2014 retirement to appear with her. His vocals on “The Lemon Trees,” “Walls and Roses,” and “Bigger Flames” have a gentle yet mysterious quality, quite distinct in the high and low registers. He’s relaxed and in command when dealing with Halvorson’s challenging melodic shapes, and that sense of calm balances the music’s prickly timbres and dissonant avant-rock, free-jazz energy.

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