Bending Bridges is Brooklyn-based guitarist/composer Mary Halvorson’s second recording with her working quintet and third consecutive title as a leader on Firehouse 12 Records. As on 2010’s Saturn Sings, which appeared on nearly 100 best-of-the-year lists, she is joined by trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson, saxophonist Jon Irabagon, bassist John Hébert and drummer Ches Smith for a program of new original compositions written specifically for this ensemble.
"Saturn Sings felt like a beginning," she explains. "When that album was recorded, the band had only been together for a year and we had only played a handful of gigs. Since then, we have played together much more often, our sound has developed and we have become increasingly comfortable with the music and with each other. The more I get to know the quintet, the easier it becomes to compose for that instrumentation, and for those musicians specifically. Plus, over time the whole band becomes more relaxed, which allows us to take more risks during performances. That’s a huge part of why I try to keep my bands together for a long time."
Ms. Halvorson’s work with her quintet, which will hit the road this spring and summer in support of Bending Bridges, has inspired critics to call her "extraordinary" (John Fordham, BBC 3’s Jazz on 3), "hugely inventive" (John Corbett, DownBeat), "daringly unpredictable" (The New Yorker), "a distinct voice of her own" (Carl Wilson, Slate), "the most original jazz guitarist in a generation" (Michael J. West, Washington City Paper), "a multi-faceted artist whose writing is as impressive as her improvising" (Troy Collins, Point of Departure) and "one of today’s most formidable bandleaders" (Francis Davis, Village Voice).
Mary Halvorson :: guitar
Jonathan Finlayson :: trumpet
Jon Irabagon :: alto saxophone
John Hebert :: string bass
Ches Smith :: drums
Press Reviews for Bending Bridges
One of the year's most eagerly anticipated albums, the Mary Halvorson Quintet's Bending Bridges has its work cut out for it topping the band's 2010 poll favorite, Saturn Sings. But the new recording, which benefits from the band’s first serious stretch of playing together live, is even deeper and edgier than its predecessor. It confirms Halvorson as an artist whose originality as a guitarist is no fiercer than her originality as a writer. Simply put, no one is making music like this.
—Lloyd Sachs, JazzTimes
...she has established herself as one of the most exciting and original guitarists in jazz—or otherwise.
—Steve Dollar, Wall Street Journal
...Halvorson's solos in particular are full of elaborate detours and sudden pitch bends that point the music on new courses. It’s tricky stuff, masterfully played by all, and refreshingly surprising.
—Bill Meyer, The Wire
Bending Bridges is both distinctive and distinguished.
—Stuart Broomer, The New York City Jazz Record
The composer-guitarist's albums as a bandleader have gained more fans (and press) with each subsequent release. By blending the sonics of avant-rock with the rhythmic complexity of contemporary jazz, Halvorson has hit on a winning formula—the latest example of which is her forthcoming album with her quintet, Bending Bridges...
—Seth Colter Walls, Village Voice
Again, there is a mix of pieces for the full ensemble and for Halvorson in trio; and, again, the end result defies classification, touching on spidery improv, jazz tradition and avant rock in a cleverly idiosyncratic brew. Only this time out, she is even more successful. Her writing has developed, unveiling appealing tunes enlivened by arrangements that extract the best from the resources at her disposal.
—John Sharpe, AllAboutJazz.com
Halvorson has been in the zone over the past couple years, but it’s hard not to hear Bending Bridges as a highpoint.
—Jason Bivins, Dusted
Is there a better guitarist in her generation?
—Marcus O’Dair, Jazzwise.com
...every composition percolates with a charming sense of unpredictability.
—Alexandra Gardner, NewMusicBox
...imaginative and refreshingly unique.
—S. Victor Aaron, Something Else!
...a highly creative and compelling set of songs that begs for repeat and close listens.
—Paul Aquaro, Free Jazz
...the whole album is a compelling listen and another feather in the cap of one of the most fascinating musicians in contemporary jazz. Mary Halvorson has developed her own unique conception of music, and it is very exciting to hear.
—Tim Niland, Music and More
As one can clearly hear on Bending Bridges, Mary Halvorson's music continues to evolve, growing in unexpected and delightful directions, an aural delight for fans of adventurous jazz. In person, the music is even more intense, more visceral, surprising and challenging.
—Richard Kamins, Step Tempest
Bending Bridges hasn’t the foggiest idea of how to bore you. Each of these nine tracks contains a similarly compelling trail of musical interest. Fans of today’s beyond-category jazz should be lining up for this music, but so should indie-rock fans or guitarheads or noise-rockers or any other music fan who cares to hear the daring mix with the heady. This is another great record from an outstanding band.
—Will Layman, PopMatters.com
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. With its beguiling melodies and odd narrative discontinuities, a Halvorson piece can be like a slow walk in a moonlit enchanted forest filled with strange and beautiful creatures. It's equal parts whimsy and wit, mystery and melancholy.
—Jon Garelick, Boston Phoenix
While strains of indie-rock, baroque music, heavy metal, blues, and avant-garde jazz whiz by on occasion, they are liberated from undue loyalty to history via the deftness of her compositional hand. The members of her quintet, each endowed with strongly individual and highly sensitive voices, interpret the material in a thoughtful but vital manner. The result is a decidedly original outing, brash and compelling from the get-go and easier on the ears with each repeated listening.
—Steve Mossberg, The Arts Fuse
In 2010, Saturn Sings captured the imagination of jazz fans and critics such as myself who fell in love with the music that encompassed the tradition without being constrained; that looked to the future without discarding past knowledge. It was a strong album with solid compositions and excellent performances. And Bending Bridges is better in every single way...her compositions are stronger and tighter and she understands writing for quintet better than before; her musicianship and ability to genre-hop at will has improved and freed her to play whatever she feels at a given moment; and the interplay and communication amongst the musicians facilitates surprises and risks and a totally trusting environment for exploration and improvisation.
—Michael Anderson, GearDiary.com