Guitarist and composer Mary Halvorson has been described as “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). In recent Downbeat Critics Polls Halvorson has been celebrated as guitarist, rising star jazz artist, and rising star composer of the year, and in 2019 she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship.
Halvorson’s most recent releases, Amaryllis and Belladonna, showcase her string quartet writing deftly interpreted by The Mivos Quartet, alongside a brand new sextet featuring Adam O’Farrill (trumpet), Jacob Garchik (trombone), Patricia Brennan (vibraphone), Nick Dunston (bass) and Tomas Fujiwara (drums). The twin debuts for Nonesuch Records, released in May 2022, were called “...new landmarks in Halvorson’s already inimitable discography” in a five star review by The Guardian.
Halvorson has also released a series of critically acclaimed albums on the Firehouse 12 label, from Dragon’s Head (2008), her trio debut featuring bassist John Hébert and drummer Ches Smith, expanding to a quintet with trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson and alto saxophonist Jon Irabagon on Saturn Sings (2010) and Bending Bridges (2012), a septet with tenor saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and trombonist Jacob Garchik on Illusionary Sea (2014), and an octet with pedal steel guitarist Susan Alcorn on Away With You (2016). Also for Firehouse 12, she released the solo guitar album Meltframe (2015), plus two albums with her band Code Girl (2018, 2020), featuring Halvorson’s own lyrics.
One of New York City’s most in-demand guitarists, over the past decade Halvorson has worked with such diverse musicians as Tim Berne, Anthony Braxton, Taylor Ho Bynum, John Dieterich, Trevor Dunn, Bill Frisell, Ingrid Laubrock, Jason Moran, Joe Morris, Tom Rainey, Jessica Pavone, Tomeka Reid, Marc Ribot and John Zorn. She is also part of several collaborative projects, most notably the longstanding trio Thumbscrew with Michael Formanek on bass and Tomas Fujiwara on drums.
“This two-LP set by guitarist and composer Mary Halvorson, a MacArthur Fellow, is pretty much everything you’d want in contemporary jazz. There’s an etherial beauty in her collaborations with the Mivos Quartet and a joyful spontaneity in the improv among the deft musicians… Not only did she do something new, she created something new. New and wonderful.”
-Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (on Amaryllis & Belladonna)
“Alternately funereal, processional and hauntingly beautiful, the suite-like Amaryllis represents some of the most accomplished writing of Halvorson’s meteoric career.”
“The most important thing is to find your own voice. More than perhaps any other guitarist working today, in jazz or elsewhere, she has succeeded at that deceptively simple aspiration. Hear her play once and you’ll recognize her anywhere: as a soloist, as a leader or accompanist in any number of ensembles, in duos with players from the worlds of avant-garde improvisation or warped indie rock."
“Halvorson doesn’t just figure out how to do some new thing; she pushes herself to do something new that tops what she has already achieved.”