Jazz guitar ‘genius’ Mary Halvorson on cocktails, tarot and making music that combusts

The 43 year old likes to disrupt tradition with noise, experimental and indie influences. She explains how new album Cloudward is yet another curveball

New York-based guitarist and composer Mary Halvorson doesn’t have time to hang about. When we speak she’s about to run out the door for a Saturday evening gig at John Zorn’s venue the Stone – and when that’s done she has to be up at 5am for a flight to Chicago for another show. The improvising jazz musician wouldn’t have it any other way. “Going through that period of Covid, I’m feeling very grateful that we are able to play music again and do shows,” she says from her home in Brooklyn. “It’s so gruelling, the travel that we do. We’re in a different city every day, and it’s exhausting. But I don’t even want to complain about it; I’m just grateful to be able to do it. It beats sitting in an office.”

Since bursting on to the creative music scene in 2002, Halvorson has proved one of the most thrilling guitar players of her generation. She’s played with the likes of Anthony Braxton, Ornette Coleman’s bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Tom Waits’s guitarist Marc Ribot and members of Deerhoof and Xiu Xiu. She’s steeped in the jazz guitar tradition yet also versed in the disruptive nature of punk, no wave and noise music.

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