Mary Halvorson & Jessica Pavone | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Mary Halvorson & Jessica Pavone 

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Students and occasional bandmates of reedist and composer Anthony Braxton, guitarist Mary Halvorson and violist Jessica Pavone have made names for themselves by bucking tradition in New York's experimental scene--rejecting specialization, they play unfussy, broadly inclusive music. Halvorson's hollow-bodied guitar playing has been a key component in groups led by bassist Trevor Dunn and percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani; she's equally at ease with clear articulation and dark, abrasive tangles, echoing Derek Bailey's lacerating jaggedness or Joe Morris's single-note lines. Pavone is similarly flexible: her 2002 album, 27 Epigrams (Peacock), is a dazzling collection of through-composed, chamberlike pieces for quartets, trios, and solo viola, but she's also worked in postjazz improv and pop-derived contexts. (Her group the Pavones, which includes ex-Chicagoans Matt Bauder and Matana Roberts, has some Stax sides in its repertoire.) Their stylistic expansiveness is most apparent on their 2005 duo record, Prairies (Lucky Kitchen). The original compositions (seven by Pavone, six by Halvorson) are more than launchpads for improvisations: sometimes they deliver a gorgeous melody that draws from chamber and old-timey music, other pieces are more pointillistic and rhythmically oriented, and on "Last Hymn," the plaintive, haunting incantation that closes the album, they even coo wordless vocals. But on nearly all the tracks the two swerve between written and improvised passages so seamlessly that they seem to have their brains hardwired together. Halvorson and Pavone play first, followed by a trio of Jerry Bryerton, Karl Seigfried, and Paul Hartsaw. Sun 6/4, 10 PM, Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont, 773-935-2118, donation requested.

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