Mary Halvorson Belladonna
Although guitarist Mary Halvorson certainly lamented the way live performances suddenly evaporated with the onset of the pandemic, she didn’t idly wait out the various shutdowns. Long interested in writing for a string quartet, she began reading books on orchestrating and engaged in a series of low-key zoom lessons with long-time collaborator Jessica Pavone—a violist, violinist and composer with whom she once had a dynamic duo project.
She ended up composing a gorgeous suite of music for Mivos Quartet, a resourceful string ensemble that’s long been a staunch advocate for emerging compositional voices, particularly the more adventurous ones, while also serving as a collaborative force with artists outside of the new music realm, whether spoken word artist Saul Williams or jazz figures like Ambrose Akinmusire and Cécile McLorin Salvant.
On the dreamy 2022 album Belladonna the quartet plays Halvorson’s score with characteristic precision and grit, bringing uncanny empathy and style to their interactions with the guitarist’s knotty yet tuneful improvisations. Halvorson grew so enamored with the collaboration that she also created parts for them on certain compositions for her sextet project, Amaryllis. Since the members of Mivos— violinists Olivia De Prato and Maya Bennardo, violist Victor Lowrie Tafoya, and cellist Tyler J. Borden—are also accomplished improvisers, don’t be surprised to hear fresh material where the players leave the notes on the page behind.