Tiny Desk

Mary Halvorson Quintet

Download Audio

20 min 24 sec

Today, when you see a saxophonist and a trumpeter in front of a jazz group, it's par for the course. It's a particular combination that's defined many landmark recordings: Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry, John Coltrane and Miles Davis. Done right, it's a classic meat-and-potatoes sound: open to reinvention, comfortable with tradition.

Guitarist Mary Halvorson didn't come to this standard practice just by playing standards. As a sidewoman, she's often tapped to play in open improvising situations; her mentors include the unclassifiable composer Anthony Braxton and the free-jazz guitarist/bassist Joe Morris. Among her sonic signatures are craggy distortions, bent strings and delay-pedaled blurts through a hollow-body guitar.

Yet Halvorson has now recorded two albums with her quintet, one with alto saxophone (Jon Irabagon) and trumpet (Jonathan Finlayson) up top. (The rhythm section is also among New York's finest, with John Hebert on bass and Ches Smith on drums.) From the way her songs balance order and entropy, you can hear that she's studied how golden-era hard bop blended those voices, and how later generations morphed, rephrased and imploded those ideas.

We thought we'd spring this particular sound of surprise on the Tiny Desk. So when they showed up in town to perform, we invited Mary Halvorson and her quintet to NPR Music's headquarters, where they got comfortable enough to get rad.

Set List

All compositions by Mary Halvorson.

  • "Love In Eight Colors" (No. 21)
  • "Hemorrhaging Smiles" (No. 25)
Credits

Producer: Patrick Jarenwattananon; Editors: Denise DeBelius, Gabriella Garcia-Pardo; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait; Videographers: Denise DeBelius, Christopher Parks, Lauren Rock; photo by Ryan Smith/NPR

[+] read more[-] less

More From Tiny Desk

Tiny Desk Concert with Paul Weller. Lani Milton/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Lani Milton/NPR

Tiny Desk

Paul Weller

See the beloved Britpop veteran perform songs from his new album, Saturns Pattern.

Tiny Desk Concert with Kate Tempest. Lani Milton/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Lani Milton/NPR

Tiny Desk

Kate Tempest

A celebrated English playwright and rapper deploys storytelling and poetry.

Tiny Desk Concert with Songhoy Blue Lani Milton /NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Lani Milton /NPR

Tiny Desk

Songhoy Blues

See a Malian band that fuses African music with Western rock.

Tiny Desk Concert with Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad of Girlpool. Maggie Starbard/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Maggie Starbard/NPR

Tiny Desk

Girlpool

The charming duo performs three of the simple, direct songs from Before The World Was Big.

Tiny Desk Concert with Christopher Paul Stelling. Morgan McCloy/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Morgan McCloy/NPR

Tiny Desk

Christopher Paul Stelling

Best witnessed live, Stelling's music is steeped in tradition yet filled with vitality and soul.

Tiny Desk Concert with And The Kids. Morgan McCloy/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Morgan McCloy/NPR

Tiny Desk

And The Kids

The trio's music is full of life, with dissonant sounds that still feel suited for singalongs.

Tiny Desk Concert with Oddisee Colin Marshall/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Colin Marshall/NPR

Tiny Desk

Oddisee

The charismatic Brooklyn-via-D.C.-area rapper creates just the right amount of space in his music.

Tiny Desk Concert with Hop Along. Maggie Starbard/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Maggie Starbard/NPR

Tiny Desk

Hop Along

Frances Quinlan's raspy voice whispers one moment, then lets loose a gut-punching howl the next.

Tiny Desk Concert with Timothy Showalter, songwriter and producer of Strand of Oaks. Maggie Starbard /NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Maggie Starbard /NPR

Tiny Desk

Strand Of Oaks

Timothy Showalter's music is filled with bite and sometimes regret, but also a good deal of warmth.

Tiny Desk Concert with The Prettiots. Morgan McCloy/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Morgan McCloy/NPR

Tiny Desk

The Prettiots

The clever trio shares its love of everything from Law & Order to old-school girl groups.

Back To Top