Photo: Mary Halvorson @ the 2013 Vision Fest | © Joyce Jones/ Suga Bowl Photography. Some Rights Reserved. Creative Commons CC-NC-BY-ND. Used with Permission.
The next show will air on Sunday, March 4 2018 from 11:00 PM – 1:00 AM Monday Eastern Standard Time on WBAI, 99.5 FM in the NYC metro area or streaming online at wbai.org. This broadcast presents an interview with guitarist, composer, bandleader and educator Mary Halvorson. In addition to discussing points in Ms. Halvorson’s career, we will also discuss the upcoming Code Girl release on Firehouse 12 Records.
One of improvised music’s most in-demand guitarists, Mary Halvorson has been active in New York since 2002, following jazz studies at Wesleyan University and the New School. Critics have called her “a singular talent” (Lloyd Sachs, JazzTimes), ”NYC’s least-predictable improviser” (Howard Mandel, City Arts), “one of the most exciting and original guitarists in jazz—or otherwise” (Steve Dollar, Wall Street Journal), and “one of today’s most formidable bandleaders” (Francis Davis, Village Voice). The Philadelphia City Paper’s Shaun Brady adds, “Halvorson has been steadily reshaping the sound of jazz guitar in recent years with her elastic, sometimes-fluid, sometimes-shredding, wholly unique style.”
After three years of study with visionary composer and saxophonist Anthony Braxton, Ms. Halvorson became an active member of several of his bands, including his trio, septet and 12+1tet. To date, she appears on over ten of Mr. Braxton’s recordings. Ms. Halvorson has also performed alongside iconic guitarist Marc Ribot, in his bands Sun Ship and The Young Philadelphians, and with the bassist Trevor Dunn in his Trio-Convulsant. Over the past decade she has worked with such diverse bandleaders as Tim Berne, Taylor Ho Bynum, Tomas Fujiwara, Ingrid Laubrock, Jason Moran, Joe Morris, Tom Rainey, Tomeka Reid and John Zorn.
As a bandleader and composer, one of Ms. Halvorson’s primary outlets is her longstanding trio, featuring bassist John Hébert and drummer Ches Smith. Since their 2008 debut album, Dragon’s Head, the band was recognized as a rising star jazz band by Downbeat Magazine for five consecutive years. Most recently she has formed an octet, adding trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson, saxophonists Jon Irabagon and Ingrid Laubrock, trombonist Jacob Garchik, and pedal steel guitarist Susan Alcorn. Their debut 2016 release, Away With You, on the Firehouse 12 Record label, was called “radiant” by the New York Times and “one of the most intricate and entrancing sets of her career” by Pitchfork. Ms. Halvorson is also a part of several collaborative projects including Thumbscrew (with Michael Formanek and Tomas Fujiwara), Secret Keeper (with Stephan Crump), a chamber-jazz duo with violist Jessica Pavone, and the avant-rock band People.
(Bio adapted from Halvorson’s website.)
This program is hosted, engineered, produced, and edited by Joyce Jones. Listen for our On the Bandstand segment with NYC metro area appearances of Suga’ guests at the end of the first hour with Associate Producer Hank Williams.
Mary Halvorson will be part of the John Zorn Improv Matinee: A Stone Benefit at the Village Vanguard on March 11 at 3:00 p.m. Former Suga’ guests Christian McBride and Marc Ribot will be there as well.
Watch Halvorson play with Nels Cline and Ches Smith in this 2005 live performance.
Watch Halvorson’s octet in action at the 2017 Winter Jazz Fest.
Hank Williams is assistant producer for Suga’ in My Bowl and produces the weekly “On the Bandstand” segment as well as running the show’s website and blog, where he has reviewed several jazz festivals. His writing has also appeared in Left Turn magazine and American Music Review. He teaches at Lehman College in the City University of New York system.