On September 10th, Firehouse 12 Records will release the Mary Halvorson Septet’s Illusionary Sea, the guitarist/composer’s fourth album as a leader for the label and the debut of her seven-piece ensemble. The new group adds Ingrid Laubrock (tenor saxophone) and Jacob Garchik (trombone) to Halvorson’s long-running quintet featuring Jonathan Finlayson (trumpet), Jon Irabagon (alto saxophone), John Hébert (bass), and Ches Smith (drums). In addition to single CD and digital download versions, Firehouse 12 will also offer a limited edition double LP, on 45-rpm audiophile vinyl with liner notes by NPR's Lars Gotrich.
Illusionary Sea follows Halvorson’s much-lauded Firehouse 12 recordings Bending Bridges (2012), Saturn Sings (2010), and Dragon’s Head (2008). This body of work as a leader demonstrates why Halvorson has been described as "the most original jazz guitarist in a generation" (Michael J. West, Washington City Paper), and "one of today’s most formidable bandleaders" (Francis Davis, Village Voice).
At the end of 2011, Halvorson had finished writing two albums’ worth of quintet music and decided she was ready for a new challenge. Thinking of the constant encouragement of her mentor Anthony Braxton to “write for larger ensembles,” Halvorson decided to expand her core ensemble (which already included trio and quintet versions), creating a mini-big band that maintains the trust and rapport of her smaller groups. She says, “Adding to an existing band piece-by-piece feels like completing a puzzle, rather than starting from scratch.”
The album features six Halvorson originals, where the four-horn blend brings deeper sonority, orchestral possibility, and an increased level of intricacy to Halvorson’s distinctive compositional voice. The seven musicians are both masterful soloists and sensitive ensemble players, as individual spotlights seamlessly blend with collective energy. Halvorson closes the recording with a surprise, paying tribute to one of her musical heroes, Robert Wyatt. Her exquisite arrangement of "Nairam" - penned by Belgian guitarist Philip Catherine and recorded under the title "Maryan" on Wyatt's album Shleep - is the first cover to appear of any of Halvorson's albums as leader.
released September 10, 2013
Jonathan Finlayson - trumpet
Jon Irabagon - alto saxophone
Ingrid Laubrock - tenor saxophone
Jacob Garchik - trombone
Mary Halvorson - guitar
John Hébert - bass
Ches Smith - drums