Mary Halvorson Amaryllis
Guitarist Mary Halvorson had a pretty good idea that the first gigs by her new sextet Amaryllis, scheduled for August of 2020, might be postponed by the pandemic that had taken root as she was composing a book of tunes for the project. However, she grew so excited by the prospect of the new ensemble— trumpeter Adam O’Farrill, drummer Tomas Fujiwara, bassist Nick Dunston, trombonist Jacob Garchik, and vibraphonist Patricia Brennan—that she kept on writing despite the delay.
When the group finally convened the following year to rehearse, perform, and record her instincts proved correct. The music of the ensemble’s debut on Nonesuch Records revealed new depth, arriving as the strongest batch of tunes she’s ever composed. The top-notch ensemble is packed with protean improvisers, but her music brings out something new as they come alive navigating her dense, harmony-rich arrangements. Halvorson’s sonic roadmap is packed with counterpoint, variable vamps and prompts, and puzzle-like interplay.
Several pieces are further enhanced by the presence of Mivos Quartet, a late addition to the project that provides even greater timbral richness and grist for the improvisational mill not as a jazz plus string gloss, but an inextricably woven presence.