SINGULAR Ever since she began taking lessons with Joe Morris, Mary Halvorson's mission has been to
find — and refine — "my own thing."
When guitarist Mary Halvorson began taking lessons with Joe Morris as an undergraduate at Wesleyan University, she was excited about the prospect of playing duos with one of her guitar heroes. But when she showed up at Morris's house, she was a bit taken aback when he said he wouldn't be playing any guitar during her lessons, that if he played anything, it would be double-bass. "He didn't want me to copy anything he was doing," Halvorson says on the phone from Brooklyn. "He wanted me to find my own thing."
Halvorson still considers that the most important lesson she took from Morris. "It was really a pretty strong message to me at a pretty young age: okay, I really have to find my own thing."
It's that search for her own thing that's made Halvorson — at 31 — one of the most celebrated young guitarists in jazz, someone who has a unique sound both as a player and a composer. You can hear bits of all kinds of stuff in Halvorson's music — rock and jazz, free improv. But nothing she does sounds quite like anyone else. Raised in Brookline, she's become a go-to guitarist in the New York avant-jazz scene, and she's long been a member of Anthony Braxton's bands, with whom she also studied at Wesleyan.
But it's in Halvorson's own projects that she's really begun to make an impression. She has an ongoing duo with violist Jessica Pavone that touches on folk and in which she even sings a bit. There's also her longstanding trio with bassist John Hébert and drummer Ches Smith. But on record, her music has taken the longest strides with her quintet — Hébert, Smith, the trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson, and alto saxophonist Jon Irabagon (of the quartet Mostly Other People Do the Killing). The quintet released its second CD, Bending Bridges, on the Firehouse 12 label last month, and they come to the Lily Pad on June 8 (with longtime Halvorson colleague Tomas Fujiwara filling in on drums, plus Morris's trio).
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