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Saturn Sings

4 customer reviews

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Audio CD, October 5, 2010
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Saturn Sings is guitarist/composer Mary Halvorson's highly anticipated follow-up to her acclaimed 2008 debut, Dragon's Head (Firehouse 12). It documents a new book of music written for her latest ensemble, the Mary Halvorson Quintet, which adds fellow New Yorkers Jonathan Finlayson (trumpet) and Jon Irabagon (alto saxophone) to her longstanding trio with bassist John Hebert and drummer Ches Smith. These compositions, her first for a band with horns, employ harmonies influenced by such diverse inspirations as Clifford Brown, Sam Cooke and The Soul Stirrers, Marvin Gaye, Thelonious Monk, Alexander Scriabin, Archie Shepp, Dmitri Shostakovich and Robert Wyatt. "Saturn Sings is a continuation of the concepts and ideas heard on Dragon's Head," Ms. Halvorson explains. "My interest in harmony has grown and I'm attempting to build on the foundation of guitar, bass and drums while writing a lot of close-knit and often dissonant horn lines. There are now many other directions to go in, and the horns push the trio into different realms and vice-versa. The more we perform, the more the music gets both looser and tighter; tighter because we are working on developing a band sound, and looser because we are comfortable and trust each other, which allows us the freedom to take chances and to explore within the framework of the piece.

Mary Halvorson :: guitar
Jonathan Finlayson :: trumpet
Jon Irabagon :: alto saxophone
John Hebert :: string bass
Ches Smith :: drums


...her sonic outbursts are tempered by compositions that are highly intelligent and harmonically sophisticated, full of nuance, beauty and the sound of surprise...the harmonies and interwoven lines that she constructs for trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson and alto saxophonist Jon Irabagon, both potent soloists, add layers of depth to this startlingly original and thoughtful music. This is easily one of the most provocative and fascinating releases of 2010. ---Bill Milkowski, JazzTimes

It's the concentrated emotional content of the group that makes this one of the more original and accomplished releases of the year, from the support of Hebert and Smith to Finlayson's brassy shimmering lines and Irabagon's more exploratory playing. Halvorson already has a reputation as the most interesting guitarist to arrive in jazz circles in the past decade. This CD is only likely to enhance that view, as Halvorson fuses advanced harmony with quartertones. ---Stuart Broomer, AllAboutJazz-New York

The quintet setting offers the Boston-born, Brooklyn-based guitarist entirely new harmonic possibilities, and the results are hugely impressive. What's especially intriguing about Halvorson's music is how little it seems to owe to the jazz guitar tradition. Whether it's the creative use of silence to break up phrases (album opener 'Leak Over Six Five'), the adroit juxtaposition of notated and free episodes ('Mile High Like'), the sudden switching from the dirtiest, Nirvana-like opening riff to the most delicately articulated melodic line ('Sea Seizure'), or the understated surprise of a sorrowing chorale ('Crack In Sky'), Halvorson's powerfully communicative music transcends the avant-garde experimental box. ---Peter Quinn, Jazzwise
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (October 5, 2010)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Firehouse 12 Records
  • ASIN: B003ZZG97A
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #219,950 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Curious Skeptic on October 15, 2010
Format: Audio CD
This disk expands on previous releases by Mary Halvorson--the overall sound is tamer than some of the earlier work (e.g., the trio record) but her compelling approach to guitar still shines through. The tunes are highly listenable and as always with mary halvorson, there are some absolutely brilliant guitar passages. Overall, still original and highly enjoyable
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John Goodin on July 7, 2012
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I was just listening to this CD again today and it occurred to me that it still sounds fresh and interesting to me after many months. While I respect the opinions of the 2 star reviewers (both of whom may be more qualified than I am to make informed judgements) to me this is a great recording. I enjoy the addition of horns, although I also liked Dragon's Head quite a bit, and find that having a little more color variety makes Halvorson's own solos even more thought-provoking. I think the compositions are strong and the band sounds really engaged. I've got the new Bending Bridges CD in my cart right now.
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Douglas Groothuis on November 28, 2013
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Saturn may sing, but this recording may not. Miss Halvorson's sound and phrasing is decidedly odd. Since I am a man of the avant-guarde, this does not flummox me; however, I cannot get a fix on her playing. That may be my fault.

She is listed as playing "guitar." Well, is it electric or acoustic? There is some electric, but some sounds like nylon string. Miss H. also uses an odd device to alter her notes and chords. It sounds like a hyper-tremolo arm or a wah-wah pedal, but since the notes said nothing, I am at a sonic loss here.

As a jazz follower, I give music time and reflection. Jazz does not have to grab you or have a hook to flow in its inimitable way. I am trying to find that flow in "Saturn Sings." Perhaps my ears are not well attuned to its muse-ic.
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14 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas E. Coletto on January 9, 2011
Format: Audio CD
I bought this cd and another by Ms. Halverson based on editorial and fan reviews. While Halverson does have a unique approach to jazz guitar which at times I like; musically there's nothing new here and what there is has been done better by previous musicians. While I don't mind having my music punctuated by dissonant elements; to my ears this music sounds predominantly dissonant punctuated by occasional musical passages. My use of the word, "dissonance" may not be correct in a technical sense but it's the only word that comes to mind. Perhaps "discordant" would be better. Now, I admit I am not a musician and there may very well be things going on here that are technically brilliant but alas, I don't speak the language so I'm missing it.
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