WSJ Profiles “Exciting” Jazz Guitarist and Composer Halvorson ’02

Mary Halvorson '02

In the Wall Street Journal, Steve Dollar recently wrote a profile of jazz guitarist and composer Mary Halvorson ’02 ( as she recorded tracks for her next ensemble album for the independent Firehouse 12 label, founded by cornetist and composer Taylor Ho Bynum ’98 and engineer Nick Lloyd.

Dollar praises Halvorson as “one of the most exciting and original guitarists in jazz” and describes her “often mercurial sound. On a given song, Ms. Halvorson may play a clean, precise line with a tone that hovers like a raised eyebrow, then slip into a beguiling phrase with vintage resonance, then veer into a feverish, sci-fi soundscape of briskly shredded notes—the last of it pumped through a handful of gizmos that include a ring modulator built by Moog and a distortion box called the Rat.”

Halverson comments, “You create a balance of having a beautiful melody with something slightly off about it, and maybe it takes a weird turn and then it’s another beautiful melody. It’s about creating something that is cool and beautiful and really surprising.”

Dollar notes that at recording sessions Halvorson “really asserts herself as a composer. She’s writing more pieces that feature horns—trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson and alto saxophonist Jon Irabragon would join the trio for the second half of recording—reaching for more color and depth.”

Like several other jazz musicians, Halvorson performs with several different groups, as well as with her former Wesleyan professor Anthony Braxton, Taylor Ho Bynum ’98, and Katherine Young ’08 as the Diamond Wall Quartet.

David Low

David Low '76 writes about arts and culture for the Wesleyan magazine and Wesleyan Connection. He is associate director of publications in the Office of University Communications. He is also a published fiction writer. E-mail: