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Saturn Sings

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iTunes Review

Mary Halvorson is the most innovative jazz guitarist to appear in decades. Jazz musicians have always drawn on popular and other styles, and Halvorson incorporates indie rock, experimental noise, and other elements into her music in distinctive ways. Odd melodic contours, intriguing harmonies, intelligently deployed distortion, just-right whammy-bar bends, and bursts of scrambled notes are some of the things that characterize her playing. Saturn Sings finds Halvorson teaming up with regular bandmates, bassist John Hebert and drummer Ches Smith, along with alto saxophonist Jon Irabagon and trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson. Halvorson, a former student of and collaborator with Anthony Braxton, writes deliciously unpredictable material. One gem, the lengthy “Moon Traps In Seven Rings,” places a tsunami of bass/drums/guitar against wistful horns and makes it work. Stretches of “Sea Seizure” could be mistaken for a tense Sonic Youth instrumental, but the skittering, clean-toned guitar lines would never come from Moore or Renaldo’s axes. Saturn Sings is the sound of now.

Customer Reviews

A thought provoking project

The disc reminds me a bit of Bill Frisell without the Americana or well thought out effects. Some spots have me thinking of the late Derek Bailey, but just when I think a piece is too far in space to be retrieved, it seems to settle, hover around a snippet of melody, and then take off, not always beautifully, but most often strikingly. As Lars Gotrich writes, "each of these inspirations is an abstract cliff-dive, and...there's much to take in."


This isn't a "pretty" album. It's epic, experimental, and thought-provoking. Each song starts out with pithy, interesting riffs ("Saturn Sings" and "Leak Over Six Five" in particular) that then tend to collapse into these smeared flurries of notes that can be somewhat abrasive and come off as unfocused improvisation. These songs are very abstract and tend to shift around a lot, which can leave you feeling like you're listening to something closer to 3 or 4 songs packed into one. It's a demanding album, but it really opens up after multiple listenings, and can be rewarding, because Mary Halvorson has some serious chops, and there are some incredibly inspiring moments tucked away in an album that sounds like it's in a league of its own. The unique overall tone of this album, in and of itself, is a triumph. Beware if you're searching for a more soulful, conventionally focused jazz album though.

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  • $9.90
  • Genres: Jazz, Music, Rock
  • Released: Oct 05, 2010

Customer Ratings