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Illusionary Sea

Mary Halvorson Septet - 2013

Mary Halvorson and her guitar. Love them. I have no idea what they are up to most of the time but I love listening none the less. I have read descriptions of Halvorson's playing and her compositions as 'avant-garde'. I suppose that is as good an undefinable genre as can be used to give some sort of explanation to Halvorson's overall musical style. Different. Unique. Frenetic. Impossible. Challenging. Extremely exciting. They all work for me when it comes to her work. Clearly the roots of her musicality lie in Jazz but from there on up it's rather difficult to distinguish exactly where her multitude of influences come from. She manipulates and molds carefully various styles into all of her compositions, but one style for her seems to incorporate four different sub-styles. It is very hard to hear a section of her music and say, 'oh that sounds like....' because nothing she does just 'sounds like', well anything let alone one thing. This makes describing Illusionary Sea very difficult. Certainly, when you can come to grips with her wonderfully unique playing and sound you can start to appreciate her fantastic abilities as a composer. Her songs are beautiful orchestrated adventures. There are so many fantastically, question-like one-off parts to her multi-layered compositions that you feel like you are always on a path of discovery. Halvorson writes for her septet with extreme attention to detail as so much of what we hear lies outside the incredible improvisations of herself, trumpeter Johnathon Finlayson and the always unmantched, unhinged and unbelievable playing of saxophonist Jonathon Irabagon. All the players on the album play their part but those three stand out above the rest. The interplay, variety, emotional spectrum and genius that are to be found in Illusionary Sea are worth the few listens it might take to discover the true merit of Halvorson's vision. (I am still working on digesting her last album...two years after the fact).

Posted by Andrew Scott

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Posted: 11/29/2013