Mary Halvorson | Amaryllis Review
By Griff Stevens
Mary Halvorson is back with her second installment to her paired project of jazz quintet and string quartet. The follow-up to Belladonna is the new Amaryllis. Halvorson leads a core sextet through six compositional explorations of melody, harmony, and counterpoint. Each composition depends on the input of the six improvisers, so the music is arranged in a way that allows each player to affect how the song unfolds every time. The sextet is Adam O’Farrill (trumpet), Jacob Garchik (trombone), Patricia Brennan (vibraphone), Mary Halvorson (guitar), Nick Dunston (bass), and Tomas Fujiwara (drums). The string ensemble called Mivos Quartet joins for three of the tracks forming a unique tenet and making this Halvorson’s largest project to date. The music bridges many musical influences and genres from jazz, experimental, new music, and beyond. The common thread is Halvorson’s sound and unique playing style.
“Night Shift” has a shifting rhythmic pattern built upon as various instruments layer in with complimenting parts. Brennan’s improvised part has motion as the rhythmic theme is continued between sections. The composition patiently unfolds as the sextet navigates the music with fluidity and certainty. Halvorson’s use of effect on her guitar sound is a big part of her style, and she uses it tastefully in her accompaniment and soloing cache. Garchik and Brennan both perform terrific solos.
“Amaryllis” has a funky ostinato figure that the horns perform a graceful melody over. The layers build to form a swirling pad of parts and textures. O’Farrill’s solo builds with his warm sound to a fitting climax. Halvorson’s solo is constructed with small rhythmic motifs and sound effects. Fujiwara and Dunston keep the groove steady and intense as the composition evolves.
Both Belladonna and Amaryllis offer many angles to Halvorson’s style and use of textures as a composer and performer. The orchestration of both albums is creative and shows Halvorson painting in pastel colors in both the sextet and string quartet setting. This is music that will withstand focused listening and will reward repeated listening.
Release Date: May 13, 2022