If You Haven’t Seen Mary Halvorson Live Yet, What the Heck is the Matter With You?

Review: Mary with Reverse Blue, Cornelia Street Café, 1/4/13 by Monique Avakian

Nobody plays like Mary.

Might as well stop there. What more is there to say, really?

Oh, I suppose I could get into details in regard to her quirky and inviting bendy notes and wavy chordal interjections, but these inventions of hers deftly defy description. Do please note, though, that her way around the wires marks an important territory that goes FAR beyond mere play with electronics, pedals, and gizmos.

I guess I could also try to explain how I heard her inject the concept of negative space into myriad choice moments during several blistering runs, but that’s a feat I don’t know how to address other than to be simply thankful. What a rhythmic treat! Stellar!

I could go on about Halvorson’s complete and total command of the instrument and how *%&$#^@ cool it is to see a woman taking the lead here—oooooooh, LA LA. And: yeah.

I could remind you that she is the leader of several groups--all strong, all different, all busy, all the time. All the guys are cool, too, of course. And they’re pretty cute. (*)

I could write about how this fine musician got heart-felt CHEERS from the audience during several of her solos…not something you see every day at a jazz show, you know…..

I could also let you know that BOTH SETS of her Reverse Blue show (Jan. 4, 2013, Cornelia Street) were sold out, so, WOW, can we hear it for the individual showing us how to be successful in this crazy economy? Now, come on!

Nobody plays like Mary.

Nobody.

(*) PS – more about the guys. I couldn’t resist making that socio-cultural joke about them being cute (which they are, btw). But I would never want to slight the inspiring males who worked with Mary during this show. Sadly, Eivind Opsvik was not able to perform on this particular evening, but Stephan Crump was a delight to behold on bass. He provided us with delicate and intricate endings to several tunes—not easy to do with songs that form themselves into 3 dimensional sculptures characterized by wildness and a heavy rocked-out feel. Chris Speed on reeds was simply rapturous at times: his tone on the clarinet is so warm and clear, and I loved his sound-poemy constructs on the sax: allusions, allegories and fluttering flocks without a trace of cliché. And, Tomas Fujiwara, on drums, well, he drew us in, of course. His style is so quiet, and he just has the most refined sense of control…and, yet, he is so out. When he gets going on a non-stop roar, his level of dynamic temperance is quite astounding.

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Monique Avakian