Mary Halvorson Quintet – Saturn Sings

(Firehouse 12)

By now Mary Halvorson’s artistic personality has been affirmed rather decisively, and it took a relatively short time to establish her music’s authority in the panorama of contemporary jazz. Still, Saturn Sings contains elements and ideas that relate to jazz just abstractedly, adding influences that include the intermittent appearance of harder sonorities enhanced by a fondness for the whammy pedal, which she uses effectively to alter pitches and warp the phrasing, either with clean or slightly overdriven tone. Totally neglecting the fear of not appearing gentle enough, Halvorson picks with a mixture of raw energy and antithetic discernment, zigzagging through the fingerboard with unusual scales and awkward arpeggios in between intuitions that certain renowned male counterparts can only dream about.

Concerning the compositions, a series of flexible rules allow the quintet to jump from apparently rehearsed segments to unhindered freedom at the flick of a switch. Trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson and alto saxophonist Jon Irabagon act as the principal voices — together with the leader’s guitar — in a collective interplay that privileges sudden contrapuntal openings and thematic hints to garbled dissociation, although the sections in which everybody rambles according to the spur of the moment may be tough to swallow after the illusions of sweeter tasters. This contrast — evidenced by the schizophrenic character of a piece like “Moon Traps In Seven Rings” — is perhaps the record’s most attractive feature; in any case, the interest generated by the evolution of the different parts is going to persuade skeptics. John Hébert on bass and Ches Smith on drums are the reasons behind an assortment of rhythmic concepts soaked with shifts of accent and momentous accelerations, enriching the feel of mutual responsiveness bathed in cold rationality that permeates the whole disc. Saturn Sings is a work that confirms this lovely woman (the quasi-Colemanesque pun is intended) as a unique voice.



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