Mary Halvorson Octet
Mary Halvorson is leading a charmed double life. One of the most strikingly original jazz guitarists in years, she regularly gets to perform in small settings that highlight her game-changing skills. And as an increasingly impressive composer and arranger, she gets to showcase that side of her talent in larger groups – including the septet responsible for Bending Bridges, one of the best albums of 2012, and the melodically captivating octet performing here today, whose Away with You was voted the fourth best album of 2016 in the NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll.
Not that Halvorson doesn’t get to spike the music with her patented plinks, dinks and spidery effects in the octet. With the great pedal steel improviser Susan Alcorn as her foil – a long ways from the Texas towns where he played in country bands – she has discovered new dimensions in her playing. And the rest of this fantastic, closeknit band – saxophonists Jon Irabagon and Ingrid Laubrock, trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson, bassist John Hebert and drummer Ches Smith, all of whom lead their own groups – have lifted their collective game as well. The music ranges seamlessly from offbeat marches to edgy minimalism to woozy electronica. The textures sing.
Halvorson’s return to Chicago underlines the strong ties she has had to the local scene since performing with the Windy City-meets-Big Apple ensemble Living by Lanterns at the 2011 Chicago Jazz Festival. More recently she has played in Chicago cellist Tomeka Reid’s band. All of which means we can look forward to seeing Halvorson with greater frequency in these parts. Hooray for that!