The avant-jazz guitarist Mary Halvorson has been making a stir in downtown New Music circles for a while now. She is noted for her collaborations with the violist Jessica Pavone, among many others. Halvorson's strong 2008 debut, DRAGON'S HEAD features her new trio, comprised of the extraordinarily fluent bassist John Hebert and drummer Ches Smith (of indie-rockers Xiu-Xiu). Together, they make a far-ranging, expansive, and even accessible sound. Hebert's more-or-less continual dialogue with Halvorson's spidery, fresh improvisations places the music in the vicinity of free improvisation but the set is also distinguished by the guitarist's angular, brainy compositions. She does indulge in some rock-like freakouts and climaxes when called for (see the title track), but her highly inventive playing is characterized by cleanly executed, loping intervals–an endless web of logical free associations. It's much less impressionistic (and rootsy) than, say, Bill Frisell, but just as imaginative.
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