Monday, December 2, 2013

Mary Halvorson: Illusionary Sea

Mary Halvorson (guitar)
Illusionary Sea (Firehouse 12 Records; 2013)
Jonathan Finlayson (trumpet)
Ches Smith (drums)
John Hebert (bass)
Jon Irabagon (alto sax)
Ingrid Laubrock (tenor sax)
Jacob Garchik (trombone)

With Illusionary Sea, Mary Halvorson has taken another leap forward in both her compositions and leadership. This expansive septet rich combines the versatile structure of the New York scene to date. Halvorson's jazz and rock aesthetics blend seamlessly into the tradition and always exploding free forms of her bandmates--with wondrous results.

At times the combination raised eerie images of the Count Basie's Band led by Sonny Sharrock. Halvorson gives her friends/band mates all the freedom they need to mold her compositions. This is present on the fun and vivid "Four Pages Of Robots." A rousing mixture of jagged tempos, scattered percussion and later, blues elements. These are juxtaposed against Halvorson's investigative chords that splice there way into the piece when you least expect it. Superb.

While complex themes are always a trademark of Halvorson's work, "Nairam" is something different in the Halvorson cannon. It's contains all the usual twists and turns in the structure. But this piece is more lyrical and compassionate. It's a composition that could easily have words applied to it and still remain emotionally resonant. Garchik and Finlayson raise above on this number but Halvorson's direction and steady chords are what draw you to the undercurrent of the song. A highly effective piece.

There's so much within Illusionary Sea to explore that we could write about every track. But its really important for you the listener to absorb this on your own. It's one of the best Mary Halvorson records to date. That includes her work with her own bands as well as with other various groups. With Illusionary Sea, Mary Halvorson has shown another enthusiastic step beyond the critical praise (she richly deserved) into one of the most important leaders and musicians in the current working scene today. Highly Recommended. And one of JazzWrap's albums of the year.

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