Things we like: Braxton/Stockhausen, Mary Halvorson
2) I've been wanting to hear more of the guitarist Mary Halvorson after being impressed by her on a few other people's recs (her former Wesleyan prof Anthony Braxton, the drummers Ches Smith and Tom Rainey) and a track on Elliott Sharpe's first I Never Metaguitar comp. (She's currently on tour in Europe with Marc Ribot's TSOP homage, the Young Philadelphians.)
The best interview with her I've read includes this quote: "I do think a lot about clarity, and I like the idea of being in control of the instrument. So if I place a totally smeared, flabby-sounding line, I want that to be on purpose, not because I couldn’t execute something. It’s not like I have one hundred percent control, but I try to make those decisions purposeful." You can really hear that on her solo album Meltframe, released last year on Firehouse 12 (her label since 2008's Dragon's Head). The material -- which she road tested, opening for Melvins frontman King Buzzo on his solo tour, before recording -- is all composed by other people; I need to hear some of her own stuff, too. But the live-solo-guitar format provides the best opportunity to hear her approach I've encountered yet.
Halvorson's take on Oliver Nelson's "Cascades" combines precise articulation with nasty (ProCo Rat) distorted sound in the same way as classic Fripp or McLaughlin. On Ornette's "Sadness" (a fave of mine from his Town Hall Concert LP), what sounds at first like the guitar being detuned is actually a slide employed "over the top" on the bottom two strings; later in the piece, you can hear it rattling on the frets. Atypically for a "jazz" guitarist, Halvorson isn't shy about using pedals. On ballads like Duke Ellington's "Solitude" or Carla Bley's "Ida Lupino," she bathes her sound in shimmering tremolo, and she uses her Line 6 delay to create off-kilter pitch-shifter effects. Her base tone, though, comes from the combination of her big archtop Guild Artist Award's natural resonance, a warm amp tone, and an aggressive right hand attack. I only wish she'd included her version of Monk's "Ruby My Dear," perhaps my favorite jazz tune of all ti-i-ime, which she's apparently played solo live.