Company Of Heaven Jazz Festival

January 7, 2010

Company of Heaven, the booking agency for many of creative improvised music’s biggest names, will hold its second annual jazz festival at New York’s Cornelia Street Café this weekend as part of the festivities surrounding the 2010 Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) Conference.

The Thirteenth Assembly, featuring Taylor Ho Bynum, Mary Halvorson, Jessica Pavone and Tomas Fujiwara, will be performing, as will Playscape Recordings artists, the Michael Musillami Trio + 3, Mario Pavone‘s Totem Quartet and George Schuller’s Circle Wide. A complete schedule of events for the three-night festival is available here.

Firehouse 12 To Present The Mary Halvorson Quintet December 4th

November 4, 2009

Photo by Peter Gannushkin

On Friday, December 4th, New Haven’s Firehouse 12 will present acclaimed Brooklyn-based guitarist/composer Mary Halvorson and her newest ensemble, the Mary Halvorson Quintet. The group, which adds two horns to the longstanding trio that recorded Ms. Halvorson’s highly regarded 2008 debut, Dragon’s Head (Firehouse 12 Records), will feature Jonathan Finlayson (trumpet), Jon Irabagon (alto saxophone), John Hébert (bass) and Ches Smith (drums). This will be the band’s final performance before going into the studio a week later to record all new material for its forthcoming 2010 release on Firehouse 12 Records.

“Mary Halvorson is the freshest, busiest, most critically acclaimed guitar-slinger out of downtown Manhattan/Brooklyn right now,” declared eminent jazz critic/author Howard Mandel on his blog, Jazz Beyond Jazz. Critics have also called her “a new voice on the instrument” (Philip McNally, Cadence), “probably the most original jazz guitarist to emerge this decade” (Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader) and “the most impressive guitarist of her generation” (Troy Collins, “She plays guitar in a way that fractures conventions,” added Steve Dollar in the New York Sun, “restlessly inventing her own paradigms.”

An active member of the diverse New York music scene since 2002, Ms. Halvorson has toured the globe with groups spanning a wide variety of genres. In addition to her trio and quintet, she co-leads a genre-defiant duo with violist Jessica Pavone, the avant-rock trio People and the improvising collective The Thirteenth Assembly. She is also a member of several of iconic saxophonist/composer Anthony Braxton’s ensembles, as well as groups led by Tim Berne, Taylor Ho Bynum, Trevor Dunn, Myra Melford, Tom Rainey and Marc Ribot among others. Her discography features nearly 25 releases on more than 15 labels, including her first effort as a bandleader, Dragon’s Head, which the New York Times‘ Nate Chinen called “one of the standout jazz albums of 2008.” Learn more at

2009 Fall Jazz Series Schedule:

09/18 :: Brandon Ross & Blazing Beauty
09/25 :: Matt Wilson Quartet
10/02 :: Mauger: Rudresh Mahanthappa/Mark Dresser/Gerry Hemingway
10/09 :: Steve Lehman Trio
10/16 :: Gretchen Parlato Band
10/23 :: Whirrr! The Music of Jimmy Giuffre
10/30 :: Taylor Eigsti Trio
11/06 :: ODE: Larry Ochs/Trevor Dunn/Lisle Ellis/Michael Sarin
11/13 :: The Peter Evans Quartet
11/20 :: Darius Jones Trio
12/04 :: Mary Halvorson Quintet
12/11 :: Amy Cervini Quartet
12/18 :: Daniel Levin Trio

Tickets and more information available at:

Tzadik To Release Jessica Pavone’s New CD In October

August 12, 2009
Photo by Erica Magrey

Photo by Erica Magrey

On October 27th, Tzadik will release violist/composer Jessica Pavone‘s Songs of Synastry and Solitude (TZ 7719) as part of the Oracles series, which celebrates “the diversity and creativity of women in experimental music making.” Inspired by the simple beauty of American folk songs, and singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen‘s Songs of Love and Hate (Columbia), this recording features 11 of Ms. Pavone’s original compositions for string quartet (violin, viola, cello and double bass) being performed by members of the Toomai String Quintet. The group will celebrate the release of the record on Tuesday, November 10th with a live performance at Roulette in New York.

The music on Songs of Synastry and Solitude grew out of the composing process for her 2007 release, Quotidian (Peacock Recordings), which documents a four-part suite that examines the temporal landmarks within each day. “I was most satisfied with the results of ‘Post Meridiem’, the afternoon piece,” Ms. Pavone remembers, “which explored informal music for one’s self in the middle of the day, in contrast to formal evening concerts. I wanted to continue writing string music based on the ideas in that piece, but for a quartet with double bass, which gives the music more flexibility and allows me to more easily draw from my folk music influence—the idea being I am writing ‘songs’ for a ‘classical’ ensemble.”

“I don’t feel like my music has something grandiose to portray,” she continues. “I just want it to sound real. I’m a songwriter that just happens to write instrumental songs—I hear music for small and intimate ensembles—and that was my approach to these string quartets. There is a lot of arpeggiation of chords throughout the ensemble emulating a finger picked guitar as well as a chorus/verse structure and an emphasis on simplicity. As I was composing these songs, I would check out older European composers’ string quartet scores and recordings, and every time said to myself, ‘I would never write music like this.’ Then there’d be times I’d hear a song by the Soul Stirrers or Leonard Cohen and think, ‘Ah, I would write music like this. I am going to borrow forms from this.'”

The influence of Cohen, and his dichotomous 1970 recording, are felt throughout this project, both in name and the underlying intent of the composer. “There’s a deep, unexplainable feeling I get from listening to his music,” says Ms. Pavone. “I feel like he encourages me to live outside this world and to explore what I call ‘the ghosts of all things lost’, reminders of past moments in my life that are still oddly familiar, but no longer part of my present existence. I want my music to have a heaviness—a weight that people feel and not just hear—as I try to recreate the feeling of his music, as well as my experience feeling his music.”

“Jessica Pavone is one of the busiest young performers on the city’s creative music scene,” declared Steve Dollar in a 2008 feature in the New York Sun, “lending her strings and a direct, personal style of playing them to all kinds of settings.” Jazz Review‘s Philip Clark writes, “We learn things from her music that we didn’t already know. [Her] harmonic openness turns the microscope on herself and she responds with lines of honest clarity, an oblique perspective on the familiar.”’s Charlie Wilmouth adds, “Her work possesses an uncommon amount of elegance…each piece is perfectly formed, expiring just as its tiny collection of melodic materials cycles through to its logical conclusion.”

Active in New York for the past decade, Ms. Pavone is best known for her work with the iconic Anthony Braxton, and a cadre of his former students that includes guitarist Mary Halvorson and cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum. In addition to leading her own bands, such as The Pavones, she has also performed in improvising ensembles led by Jeremiah Cymerman, Laurence “Butch” Morris, Matana Roberts and Eliot Sharp, as well as such collective groups as the Mary Halvorson/Jessica Pavone Duo and The Thirteenth Assembly.

As a composer, she has earned grants and commissions from the Aaron Copland Recording Fund, the American Music Center, The Kitchen, MATA and the group, Till By Turning, which recently presented the European premiere of “Quotidian” at Faust’s Klangbad Festival 2009 in Germany. Her discography features more than 30 recordings, including recent releases from the Anthony Braxton 12+1tet, Taylor Ho Bynum & SpiderMonkey Strings and William Parker.

Learn more at

Mary Halvorson Trio In California This Week

August 3, 2009
Photo by Peter Gannushkin

Photo by Peter Gannushkin

Fresh off a long road trip touring the right half of America with Jessica Pavone last week, guitarist/composer Mary Halvorson is on the move again, this time in a big jet plane, for two gigs in California with her acclaimed trio featuring bassist John Hébert and drummer Ches Smith.

But don’t fret New York, your favorite lady guitarist will be back by the weekend so she can perform with Matana Roberts at The Stone on Sunday.

Later in the month, after a few weeks of relative quiet, she’ll be back on stage in Gotham with Tom Rainey, The Thirteenth Assembly and Marc Ribot’s Sun Ship, the latter of which will also head off to more neutral digs in Willisau, Switzerland on August 30th.

Here’s the complete rundown for the month:

Mary Halvorson Trio
Tuesday, August 4th @ Yoshi’s (Oakland, CA)
Thursday, August 6th @ The Hammer Museum (Los Angeles, CA)

Matana Roberts
Sunday, August 9th @ The Stone (New York, NY)

Tom Rainey
Friday, August 21st @ The Stone (New York, NY)

Thirteenth Assembly
Tuesday, August 25th @ Freddy’s Bar & Backroom (Brooklyn, NY)

Marc Ribot’s Sun Ship
Wednesday, August 26th @ Rose (Brooklyn, NY)
Sunday, August 30th @ Jazz in Willisau (Willisau, Switzerland)

New CD From Taylor Ho Bynum & SpiderMonkey Strings Coming September 15th

June 17, 2009
Photo by Scott Friedlander

Photo by Scott Friedlander

On September 15th, Firehouse 12 Records will release Madeleine Dreams (FH12-04-01-011), the second recording from cornetist/composer Taylor Ho Bynum‘s improvising chamber ensemble, SpiderMonkey Strings. The seven year-old group features Kyoko Kitamura (voice), Jason Kao Hwang (violin), Jessica Pavone (viola), Tomas Ulrich (cello), Pete Fitzpatrick (guitar), Joseph Daley (tuba) and Luther Gray (drums).

The centerpiece of this release is Bynum’s titular composition, a six-movement secular oratorio inspired by Madeleine is Sleeping (Harcourt), a 2004 novel written by his sister, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, and its theme of the logic of dreams. The piece, which the band has performed on tour since its March 2008 debut at New York’s Roulette, draws text from the book, a magical-realist fable of a girl’s coming of age that moves between dreams and reality in 19th century France. Madeleine Dreams also documents Bynum’s distinctive arrangements of music by Ornette Coleman, Duke Ellington and Sun Ra.

“Dreams, and the literature of dreaming, including the work of such authors as Borges, Murakami, Okri, and Calvino, are an ongoing artistic inspiration for me,” writes Bynum in the liner notes. “The logic of dreams shows how radically yet naturally one’s subconscious can transform known elements into the surreal, seamlessly moving between the mundane and the fantastic. The remaining pieces are by three of my musical heroes, each of whom embraced dreams, mythology, and fiction in his own way. I also like the idea of SpiderMonkey Strings as a most unusual kind of repertory band.”

Named after two mythical tricksters, Anansi the Spider of West Africa and the Monkey King of China, Taylor Ho Bynum & SpiderMonkey Strings has performed a diverse range of extended suites with a genre-defying spirit and an amiable sense of humor since 2002. The band first took shape as a string quartet with cornet and guitar created to perform music Bynum wrote for a short film score. He later added tuba and drums and began writing eclectic long-form works for the group, which he documented on its 2005 debut, Other Stories [Three Suites] (482 Music). The recent addition of Ms. Kitamura furthers the evolution of the group’s sound by bringing the implicit narrative elements of Bynum’s music to the forefront.

Critics have called Bynum “a young brass master and compelling composer” (Jon Garelick, Boston Phoenix), “a remarkable writer, improviser and bandleader” (Troy Collins, and “one of the most exciting figures in jazz’s new power generation” (Steve Dollar, Time Out Chicago). “Over the past decade,” wrote Kevin Le Gendre in Jazzwise, “Bynum has shown himself to be a worthy addition to the canon of maverick trumpeters that includes such illustrious names as Wadada Leo Smith, Ron Miles, Cuong Vu and Arve Henrikson.” The Chicago Reader‘s Peter Margasak adds, “Taylor Ho Bynum cemented his reputation as one of the most compelling and progressive trumpeters and bandleaders currently active, at home in every corner of the creative-music map.”

Bynum’s expansive resume includes collaborations with both his contemporaries and legendary figures alike, most notably the iconic saxophonist/composer Anthony Braxton, with whom he has performed and recorded extensively over the past decade. His most recent releases as a leader/co-leader include Positive Catastrophe’s Garabatos Volume One (Cuneiform Records), The Thirteenth Assembly’s (un)sentimental (Important Records), and the Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet’s Asphalt Flowers Forking Paths (hatOLOGY). He is also a member of such groups as The Convergence Quartet, Jason Kao Hwang’s Edge, the Joe Morris Bass Quartet and the large ensembles of Bill Dixon and Cecil Taylor. In addition, he is a curator and board member for the Festival of New Trumpet (FONT) Music and a partner in Firehouse 12 Records.

Learn more at

(Un)Sentimental And Thin Air Reviewed In The Wire

April 17, 2009
Photo by Hilary McHone

Photo by Hilary McHone

Daniel Spicer’s joint review of The Thirteenth Assembly‘s (un)sentimental (Important Records) and Mary Halvorson and Jessica Pavone‘s Thin Air (Thirsty Ear) appears in the May 2009 issue of The Wire.

Spicer notes The Thirteenth Assembly’s “diverse, often surprising compositions,” “mischievous good humour,” and “moments when the music transcends genre.”

He also highlights the duo’s “compelling musicianship” and Halvorson’s “impressive timbral palette ranging from fierce, taut scribbles to subtle smears of effects.”

“It easily confirms her position as one of the most relentlessly inventive guitarists working in creative music today,” he adds.

The Thirteenth Assembly’s New CD Reviewed At

March 30, 2009
Photo by Hilary McHone

Photo by Hilary McHone

Troy Collins’ review of The Thirteenth Assembly‘s debut release, (un)sentimental (Important Records), was posted today at  The group features cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum, violist Jessica Pavone, guitarist Mary Halvorson and drummer Tomas Fujiwara.

He writes, “The unified ensemble sound of The Thirteenth Assembly is centered around empathetic communication and a willingness to subvert ego for the good of the group; there is no grandstanding here, only four longstanding friends conspiring to make adventurous yet accessible music. A stunning achievement, (un)sentimental demonstrates the endless possibilities of contemporary music by players at the top of their game.”

NY Times Reviews The Thirteenth Assembly

March 14, 2009
Photo by Hilary McHone

Photo by Hilary McHone

Today’s New York Times features a live review of The Thirteenth Assembly‘s Wednesday night CD release party at Barbès by Nate Chinen who writes, “this is a group with an admirably relaxed sense of self, and a shared conviction to keep all options open.”

The group’s debut, (un)sentimental (Important Records), is now available.

The Thirteenth Assembly @ Barbès This Wednesday

March 10, 2009
Photo by Hilary McHone

Photo by Hilary McHone

On Wednesday, March 11th at 8:00 p.m., The Thirteenth Assembly will celebrate its new CD, (un)sentimental (Important Records), at Barbès in Brooklyn.

The New York-based quartet features Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet), Jessica Pavone (viola), Mary Halvorson (guitar) and Tomas Fujiwara (drums).

Improvised Communications To Represent Mary Halvorson

March 3, 2009

Photo by Hilary McHone

Photo by Hilary McHone

Improvised Communications is pleased to announce it has been retained by Brooklyn-based guitarist/composer Mary Halvorson as her exclusive media contact. 

This new arrangement builds on an ongoing relationship that already includes the promotion of her critically acclaimed 2008 debut as a leader, Dragon’s Head, for the Firehouse 12 Records label, as well as two recent concerts by the Mary Halvorson Trio

Ms. Halvorson will be performing with a variety of ensembles over the next few months, as well as appearing on new recordings by Crackleknob, The Thirteenth Assembly and her duo with Jessica Pavone.

Critics have called her “probably the most original jazz guitarist to emerge this decade” (Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader) and “the freshest, busiest, most critically acclaimed guitar-slinger out of downtown Manhattan/Brooklyn right now” (Howard Mandel, Jazz Beyond Jazz). 

“A singular talent,” adds’s Troy Collins, “Brooklyn-based guitarist Mary Halvorson has come into her own as a composer and improviser with her trio debut, Dragon’s Head…light years ahead of her peers, she is the most impressive guitarist of her generation.  The future of jazz guitar starts here.”

Active in New York since 2000, following jazz studies at Wesleyan University and the New School, Ms. Halvorson leads her own trio with bassist John Hebert and drummer Ches Smith, and co-leads a chamber music duo with violist Jessica Pavone and the avant-rock duo, People, with drummer Kevin Shea. 

A veteran of the ensembles of esteemed saxophonist/composer Anthony Braxton, she has also performed with groups led by Tim Berne, Taylor Ho Bynum, Trevor Dunn, Curtis Hasselbring, Tony Malaby, Nicole Mitchell, Jason Moran, Matana Roberts, Elliott Sharp, John Tchicai and Matthew Welch among many others. 

Learn more at