Artist: Mary Halvorson
01. Night Shift
04. Side Effect
06. 892 Teeth
The belief that the more complex and layered a work of art is, the less it communicates to its audience is put to the test in Mary Halvorson’s Amaryllis. Any notion that this is too dense an album to draw listeners in is upended by Halvorson’s sextet: Adam O’Farrill (trumpet), trombonist Jacob Garchik (trombone), vibraphonist Patricia Brennan (vibraphone), Nick Dunston (bass), and Thomas Fujiwara (drums), whose creative skill is heard immediately on opener”Night Shift.” Brennan’s vibes play a pattern over the rhythm section’s fractured-yet-swinging beat and Garchik’s trombone slices and growls through the song, while Halvorson’s guitar plays counterpoint against his powerful solo.
Dunston starts off “Amaryllis” with a powerful bass riff that underpins the theme brought forth by the horns, with O’Farrill blowing fire followed by Halvorson’s edgy, spiky guitar. “Side Effect” brings in another compositional layer to this album: the thick, modern sound of the Mivos Quartet. The almost Ivesian writing for the string quartet is soon supplemented by the sextet’s appearance and the whole composition cruises along as layer upon layer of inner voices and comping under the soloists imply a much larger group of musicians. All of this could suggest a complex, emotionless album, but Mary Halvorson is a writer of warm, heartfelt music that belongs to the zeitgeist—a time of new and broader perspectives, and the age of the breaking down of barriers in all its forms, which in this instance are the walls between classical and jazz, improvisation and composition, and tradition and innovation.