You stumble through the streets late into the night. Your vision is blurry and undulating in queasy, irregular patterns. A glimpse of light wobbles into view, and you follow it. You enter a bright opening and nearly trip on stone stairs descending into the ground. You warily climb down the flight of stairs, and another flight, and another. When you feel the sense that you’ve been tricked, you finally enter a new room, inhabited by one individual holding a guitar . . .
One individual holding a guitar. That’s all that this album is, and if you were expecting something more elaborate and cumbersome, you surely won’t find it here. But, before heading for that open door, I implore you to give this unique gem an honest listen. Meltframe is the newest full-length by Mary Halvorson, a Bostonian guitarist with a hefty reputation for innovation and proficiency in the jazz community.
This release consists of semi-improvisational covers of classic jazz songs by the likes of Ornette Coleman, Duke Ellington, McCoy Tyner, and a plethora of others. She weaves these timeless melodies together by transforming them into cascades of progressive solo guitar, stretched and contorted by her trademark delay pedal. Halvorson greatly succeeds in highlighting the immense potential for malleability within her chosen genre.
When this record is playing, it sounds as if Halvorson is sitting in the same room directly in front of the listener. Every strum, pick, and pop can be heard in the mix, giving the songs a wonderfully intimate feel. The tempos shift and sway, never locking into a restrained grid. The sparse recordings are inventive in their conception, and fierce in their execution. If you’re seeking labyrinthine solo jazz guitar, this album is for you.
– stasi (@stasisphere)