When recounting her origin story, Mary Halvorson typically emphasizes a chunk of recommendation she acquired from two early mentors, Joe Morris and Anthony Braxton: Crucial factor is to search out your personal voice. Greater than maybe some other guitarist working as we speak, in jazz or elsewhere, she has succeeded at that deceptively easy aspiration. Hear her play as soon as and also you’ll acknowledge her wherever: as a soloist, as a pacesetter or accompanist in any variety of ensembles, in duos with gamers from the worlds of avant-garde improvisation or warped indie rock.
On one hand, her tone is obvious and declarative close to the purpose of affectlessness, sustaining a way of calm deliberation whilst she spins out more and more elaborate melodic fractals, stoic within the eye of her personal gathering storm. On the opposite, aided by her trusty Line 6 DL4, she turns the guitar into one thing slippery and alien. Particular person notes appear all of the sudden to lose their footing, ringing confidently at first, then slipping and wobbling out of tune. Licks pile up on prime of one another till they change into a single undifferentiated mass, iridescent and oozing out previous the margins. When recording, she typically locations one microphone on her amp and one other instantly on her unamplified strings, capturing each sounds on the identical time. The impact establishes an unlikely holism between her two approaches to the instrument: bringing out an uncanny high quality from the quietude of her clear taking part in, and grounding her extra boisterously outré passages in a sure naturalism.
As a composer and arranger, Halvorson treats every of her albums as a chance to create a brand new context for her singular voice as a guitarist, a follow she continues with Amaryllis and Belladonna, a pair of data launched concurrently and supposed as a “modular and interlocking” pair. On Amaryllis, she follows an present throughline in her catalog towards ever-larger ensembles, main a newly established quintet—Patricia Brennan on vibraphone, Nick Dunston on bass, Tomas Fujiwara on drums, Jacob Garchik on trombone, and Adam O’Farrill on trumpet—and augmenting the core group with the Mivos string quartet on the album’s second facet. On Belladonna, she strips away the jazz band, leaving solely her guitar and the strings. By releasing them as separate-but-related initiatives, Halvorson permits listeners to search out their very own path by an imposing assortment of music: Take every disc by itself, or each collectively as a double album, in whichever order you select. I desire Amaryllis first, then Belladonna, listening to the previous as a raucous end result of Halvorson’s current bandleader albums, and the latter as a primary glimpse of the misty and unsure territory on the opposite facet.