Since emerging on the national scene as the guitarist in Trevor Dunn’s Trio-Convulsant, Boston native Mary Halvorson has been repeatedly celebrated as the most original guitarist of the 21st century. From the outset, her improvisational style turned heads, as studies with Anthony Braxton and Joe Morris led her to pursue a deeply instinctual approach that melded the texture-rich playing of Jimi Hendrix, the clean-toned clarity of Jim Hall, and the gonzo overload of Melvins guitarist King Buzzo.
An inveterate collaborator, Halvorson became a key side-person in loads of disparate projects, including a sextet led by Taylor Ho Bynum, an intimate duo with violinist Jessica Pavone, and an absurdist noise-rock duo with drummer Kevin O’Shea. While developing as an improviser, Halvorson began refining her abilities as a composer with a wiry, inventive trio featuring drummer Ches Smith and bassist John Hébert. Over the years she began to expand the group, as a quintet, septet, and finally an octet, drawing upon the additional voices to accommodate the increasingly contrapuntal complexity of her writing and arranging. She remains devoted to playing in groups led by other musicians including cellist Tomeka Reid, pianist Jason Moran, trumpeter Adam O’Farrill, saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, guitarist Marc Ribot, and drummer Tom Rainey. She has also maintained a dizzying array of duo projects with fellow guitarists including Morris, Deerhoof’s John Dieterich, and Bill Frisell, as well as pianist Sylvie Courvoisier.
More recently the 2019 MacArthur fellow has written songs and lyrics for the band Code Girl, which features the singing of Amirtha Kidambi and, on its most recent album, the legendary Robert Wyatt. In 2022 she released two interrelated albums—Amaryllis and Belladonna—the first composed for a dazzling new sextet with trumpeter O’Farrill, drummer Tomas Fujiwara, bassist Nick Dunston, trombonist Jacob Garchik, and vibraphonist Patricia Brennan, and the second written for her own guitar with the Mivos Quartet, who also appear on several tunes on the sextet recording.
John Zorn: Bagatelles Pt. 2
Mary Halvorson Quartet & Trigger
John Zorn: Cobra
Bill Frisell, Mary Halvorson, Will Greene, Brian Marsella, John Medeski, Michael Nicolas, Trevor Dunn, Simon Hanes, Sae Hashimoto, Dave Lombardo, Aaron Edgcomb, & Kenny Wollesen