I've listened to Mary Halvorson in live performances two times in the past: once in a small theatre in Italy with friend and collaborator Jessica Pavone, then in London in a small but famous club (The Vortex) with her quartet The 13th Assembly. Some years are passed, but her creative vein is still far from draining.
A long-time disciple and collaborator of the multi-awarded composer and reedist Anthony Braxton, and of other giants of improvised music like Marc Ribot, Halvorson has released a couple of albums this year. The first, issued in March by the label Firehouse 12, is titled “Code Girl” and sees Halvorson heading a quintet of musicians including bassist Michael Formanek, drummer Tomas Fujiwara (basically her Thumbscrew Trio), Ambrose Akinmusire on trumpet and Amirtha Kidambi on vocals.
Divided in two Cds, for a total lenght of 90 minutes, this issue is composed by 14 beautiful songs, a little bit obliques – they remind me of Robert Wyatt – where there's space left here and there for some little improvisation. Possibly one of the best output this year, “Code Girl” is composed by nice arpeggios, scales and solos on guitar driven by great grooves of the rhythm section, long melodic tirades on trumpet, some arcos on the bass and a great vocalist, usually trained in South Indian Carnatic tradition, but here completely at ease with alt-rock flavoured melodies.
An advice for all the fans of free jazz/improvised music: sound needs structure to make sense, and the AABA structure can be as interesting and smart as our beloved and chosen composition-with-improvisation scheme. Don't miss the opportunity to be enriched by this form of art, like any other art: you won't regret at all.