Mary Halvorson with Anti-House, Jazzclub Unterfahrt, Munich, Germany, January 2011
|Born||October 16, 1980|
Brookline, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Genres||Free jazz, avant-garde jazz, experimental flamenco, psychedelia|
|Labels||Firehouse 12, Thirsty Ear, Cuneiform|
|Associated acts||Trevor Dunn's Trio-Convulsant, Marc Ribot|
Among her many collaborations, she has: led a trio with John Hébert and Ches Smith, and a quintet with the addition of Jon Irabagon and Jonathan Finlayson; recorded duo albums with violist Jessica Pavone; and recorded several albums with bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Tomas Fujiwara under the band name Thumbscrew.
Early life and career
Halvorson began her musical education on violin but was enthralled with the idea of playing guitar after discovering Jimi Hendrix. She first picked up electric guitar at the age of 11 in seventh grade. Her first guitar teacher was Issi Rozen.
She initially enrolled in Wesleyan University to study biology, but dropped her prospective major after sitting in on one of saxophonist Anthony Braxton's music classes. She quickly connected with him and he heavily encouraged her to find her own expression on guitar.
Halvorson's 2008 recording Dragon's Head was as the leader of a trio containing bassist John Hébert and drummer Ches Smith. Her later album, Saturn Sings, added saxophonist Jon Irabagon and trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson. In 2012, she played with trumpeter Peter Evans and drummer Weasel Walter on the trio album Mechanical Malfunction.
In 2013, the trio of Halvorson, bassist Michael Formanek, and drummer Tomas Fujiwara recorded the first of several albums as the band Thumbscrew. NPR called Halvorson's 2015 solo album Meltframe "category-exploding", and its 2015 Jazz Critics Poll named the record 7th-best of the year.
Her album Away With You features pedal steel player Susan Alcorn, cellist Tomeka Reid and saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock. The album Code Girl was Halvorson's first attempt at writing lyrics for her original works, which are sung by Amirtha Kidambi and inspired by the songwriting of Robert Wyatt and Elliot Smith. The album also features drummer Tomas Fujiwara, bassist Michael Formanek and trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire. The album received an 8.1 rating from a Pitchfork review, explaining, "The pleasure of this kind of text comes from the way it invites active listening as a means of interpretation." Code Girl is named after an offhand remark by Braxton, who used the phrase in conversation while on a European tour with Halvorson. Later, she settled on the phrase as an album title, because "at that point I'd written a lot of the lyrics... and they seemed a little bit coded and strange." Halvorson has also worked with John Dieterich of Deerhoof. Halvorson had previously performed some of her lyrics in collaboration with violinist Jessica Pavone, with whom she also recorded duo albums. As of 2018, Halvorson was an instructor at The New School's College of Performing Arts.
Although Halvorson is often categorized as a jazz guitarist, her music includes elements of many other genres, such as flamenco, rock, noise, and psychedelia. In a 2018 interview with Jazz Times, Halvorson described the guitar as a "neutral vessel", saying “The cool thing about the guitar is it’s not associated as much with a particular genre... it could be classical, it could be rock and roll, it could be jazz, it could be folk.”
In 2012, Troy Collins of All About Jazz called Halvorson "the most impressive guitarist of her generation", and wrote, "The future of jazz guitar starts here." Jon Garelick of The Phoenix identified Halvorson's search for her own sound as a key component of her success as a musician and composer.
|2008||Dragon's Head||Firehouse 12||Trio, with John Hébert (bass), Ches Smith (drums)|
|2010||Saturn Sings||Firehouse 12||Quintet with Jonathan Finlayson, Jon Irabagon, John Hébert, and Ches Smith.|
|2010||Bending Bridges||Firehouse 12||Quintet with Jonathan Finlayson, Jon Irabagon, John Hébert, and Ches Smith.|
|2013||Illusionary Sea||Firehouse 12||Septet with Jonathan Finlayson, Jon Irabagon, Ingrid Laubrock, Jacob Garchik, John Hébert, and Ches Smith.|
|2013||Ghost Loop||EMI||Trio with John Hébert, and Ches Smith.|
|2014||Reverse Blue||Relative Pitch||Quartet with Chris Speed, Eivind Opsvik, Tomas Fujiwara|
|2015||Meltframe||Firehouse 12||Solo covers album.|
|2016||Away With You||Firehouse 12||Octet with Jonathan Finlayson, Jon Irabagon, Ingrid Laubrock, Jacob Garchik, Susan Alcorn, John Hébert, and Ches Smith.|
|2018||Code Girl||Firehouse 12||Most tracks quintet, with Ambrose Akinmusire (trumpet), Michael Formanek (bass), Tomas Fujiwara (drums), Amirtha Kidambi (vocals)|
|2020||Code Girl: Artlessly Falling||Firehouse 12||Most tracks sextet, with Adam O'Farrill (trumpet), Michael Formanek (bass), Tomas Fujiwara (drums), Amirtha Kidambi (vocals), Maria Grand (tenor sax, vocals)|
|2004||Trevor Dunn's trio-convulsant||Sister Phantom Owl Fish||Ipecac|
|2005||Mary Halvorson & Jessica Pavone||Prairies||Lucky Kitchen|
|2005||People (Mary Halvorson, Kevin Shea)||People||I & Ear|
|2007||Mary Halvorson & Jessica Pavone||On and Off||Skirl|
|2007||People||Misbegotten Man||I & Ear|
|2008||Mary Halvorson & Weasel Walter||Opulence||ugEXPLODE|
|2008||Mary Halvorson, Jessica Pavone, Devin Hoff, Ches Smith||Calling All Portraits||Skycap|
|2009||Mary Halvorson & Jessica Pavone||Thin Air||Thirsty Ear|
|2009||Mary Halvorson, Reuben Radding, Nate Wooley||Crackleknob||Hatology|
|2009||Weasel Walter / Mary Halvorson / Peter Evans||Mystery Meat||ugEXPLODE|
|2009||The Thirteenth Assembly (Bynum, Pavone, Fujiwara)||(un)sentimental||Important Records|
|2010||Tom Rainey Trio||Pool School||Clean Feed|
|2010||Tomas Fujiwara & The Hook Up||Actionspeak||482 Music|
|2011||Weasel Walter / Mary Halvorson / Peter Evans||Electric Fruit||Thirsty Ear|
|2011||Mary Halvorson & Weasel Walter||Ominous Telepathic Mayhem||ugEXPLODE|
|2011||Mary Halvorson & Jessica Pavone||Departure of Reason||Thirsty Ear|
|2011||The Thirteenth Assembly||Station Direct||Important Records|
|2012||Tom Rainey Trio||Camino Cielo Echo||Intakt|
|2012||Weasel Walter / Mary Halvorson / Peter Evans||Mechanical Malfunction||Thirsty Ear|
|2012||AYCH (Jim Hobbs, Mary Halvorson, Taylor Ho Bynum)||As the Crow Flies||Relative Pitch|
|2012||Ergo||If Not Inertia||Cuneiform|
|2012||Living by Lanterns||New Myth/Old Science||Cuneiform|
|2013||Secret Keeper (Stephan Crump & Mary Halvorson)||Super Eight||Intakt|
|2013||Kirk Knuffke, Mary Halvorson & Matt Wilson||Sifter||Relative Pitch|
|2013||Curtis Hasselbring||Number Stations||Cuneiform|
|2013||Joy Mega||Forever Is Something Inside You||New Atlantis Records|
|2014||Mary Halvorson, Michael Formanek, Tomas Fujiwara||Thumbscrew||Cuneiform|
|2014||People||3xaWoman: The Misplaced Files||Telegraph Harp|
|2014||Illegal Crowns (Halvorson, Fujiwara, Delbecq, Bynum)||Illegal Crowns||RogueArt|
|2015||Tom Rainey Trio||Hotel Grief||Intakt|
|2015||Tomeka Reid Quartet||Tomeka Reid Quartet||Thirsty Ear|
|2015||Marc Ribot||The Young Philadelphians: Live in Tokyo||Yellowbird|
|2016||Tomas Fujiwara, Ben Goldberg, Mary Halvorson||The Out Louds||Relative Pitch|
|2016||Mary Halvorson & Noël Akchoté||Mary Halvorson and Noël Akchoté||Noël Akchoté|
|2017||Sylvie Courvoisier & Mary Halvorson||Crop Circles||Relative Pitch|
|2017||Elliott Sharp with Marc Ribot, Mary Halvorson||Err Guitar||Intakt|
|2017||Mary Halvorson Quartet plays John Zorn's Masada Book Two||Book of Angels, Vol. 32 - Paimon||Tzadik|
|2018||Mary Halvorson & Bill Frisell||The Maid With the Flaxen Hair||Tzadik|
|2018||Robbie Lee & Mary Halvorson||Seed Triangular||New Amsterdam|
|2018||Ingrid Laubrock||Contemporary Chaos Practices||Intakt|
|2018||Joe Morris & Mary Halvorson||Traversing Orbits||RogueArt|
|2018||Various Artists||A Day in the Life: Impressions of Pepper||Impulse Records|
|2019||Tom Rainey Trio||Combobulated||Intakt|
|2019||Mary Halvorson / John Dieterich||a tangle of stars||New Amsterdam|
|2019||Michael Formanek Very Practical Trio||Even Better||Intakt|
|2020||Thumbscrew||The Anthony Braxton Project||Cuneiform|
- Chinen, Nate (October 28, 2016). "Mary Halvorson on Guitar: Unflinching and Full of Grace". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 13, 2018.
- "Why Mary Halvorson Sounds Like No Other Guitarist". NPR.org. Retrieved December 13, 2018.
- Nastos, Michael G. "Mary Halvorson Trio / Mary Halvorson: Dragon's Head". AllMusic. Retrieved February 9, 2020.
- Clean Feed Records and Mary Halvorson: Promises of Good Things to Come in Jazz, Pop Matters. Jazz Today. By Will Layman. February 16, 2011. Retrieved May 31, 2012.
- Nastos, Michael G. "Mary Halvorson". AllMusic. Retrieved February 9, 2020.
- Lynch, Dave. "Thumbscrew / Mary Halvorson / Michael Formanek / Tomas Fujiwara: Thumbscrew". AllMusic. Retrieved February 9, 2020.
- "Thumbscrew: Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved February 9, 2020.
- "The 2015 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll". NPR.org. Retrieved December 19, 2018.
- "Mary Halvorson Re-Engineered Jazz Guitar. Now, She's Hacking Her Own Code". NPR.org. Retrieved December 19, 2018.
- "Mary Halvorson: Code Girl". Pitchfork. Retrieved December 13, 2018.
- [dead link]
- "Reinventing the Avant-Garde | School of Jazz and Contemporary Music". www.newschool.edu. Retrieved December 16, 2018.
- "Wadada Leo Smith, Mary Halvorson Among Winners in DownBeat Critics Poll". DownBeat Magazine. June 26, 2017. Retrieved December 20, 2018.
- "DownBeat Announces Winners of the 2018 Int'l Critics Poll". DownBeat Magazine. June 25, 2018. Retrieved November 22, 2019.
- "Salvant Tops 2019 DownBeat Critics Poll". DownBeat Magazine. June 24, 2019. Retrieved November 22, 2019.
- Dwyer, Colin (September 25, 2019). "MacArthur 'Genius' Grant Winners Attest To 'Power Of Individual Creativity'". NPR.org. Retrieved September 28, 2019.
- "Mary Halvorson: Reinventing the Identity of the Jazz Guitarist". JazzTimes. Retrieved December 19, 2018.
- Mary Halvorson Archived June 18, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, All About Jazz. By Troy Collins. Retrieved May 31, 2012.
- Mary Halvorson's EnchantedWood Archived November 5, 2013, at the Wayback Machine, The Boston Phoenix. By Jon Garelick. p. 1–2. May 31, 2012. Retrieved May 31, 2012.
- Jurek, Thom. "Mary Halvorson: Code Girl". AllMusic. Retrieved February 9, 2020.