field report no.103016

LOCATION: Shapeshifter Lab BK.NY
SUBJECT: Mary Halvorson Octet

In the run of shows I saw my last month in the city, none was as poignant, for me, as seeing Mary Halvorson again. Much to my surprise, when I first came to NYC over ten years ago, I actively struggled to find my niche. It was through following Halvorson (and the various artists in her orbit) that I found a scene in the city that felt vital and my own.

Now it seems generally accepted that Mary Halvorson is one of the jazz musicians we will be listening to for decades from now. She has graduated from up-and-comer to next wave. When many of the people who have dominated the downtown jazz scene for decades are now over 60 (and we've lost a few already) it's notable that you can't seem to find a week where Mary isn't gigging one of her dozen-or-so projects around town.

This particular night was the record-release of her new Octet record—a group which has grown organically from her original trio, through quintet and septet formations. The larger the group gets, the more Mary Halvorson (the composer) steps out. I've not heard many composers write such intricate-yet-still-fluid charts the way she does while still maintaining room for improvisation. Not only does she provide for improvisation in novel ways, she has a deep appreciation for an ear-wormy melody.

I took a moment to thank Halvorson (awkwardly) after the show. I tried to explain that she'd been a faithful lodestone in my own musical journey, but I've never been good at talking to my idols.

NOTES: Mary Halvorson, Jon Irabagon, Ingrid Laubrock, Jonathan Finlayson, Jacob Garchick, Susan Alcorn, Chris Lightcap, Tomas Fujiwara; Brandon Seabrook