Mary Halvorson: I’m not attached to genre

The long-winded questions from Tone Madison’s Grant Phipps often seem to go beyond information into idle speculation, but in one of her first interviews after she won the MacArthur Foundation’s so-called “genius grant”, guitarist Mary Halvorson handles the queries with aplomb. Admitting that she was shocked when she won the MacArthur, since her music is anything but easy listening, she rhymes off her early influences from Jimi Hendrix to Robert Wyatt, as well as more conventional Jazz icons like Johnny Smith and Duke Elllington. She also states that studying with multi-reedist Anthony Braxton when she was 19 was what opened her up to the world of musical possibilities. Content to let the interviewer rhapsodize about her preference in guitars, the intricacies of some of her solo work, and the nuts-and-bolts of her arrangements for larger bands, she manages to explain how familiarity with the players’ skills makes her working quartet with drummer Tomas Fujiwara, bassist Jason Roebke and cellist Tomeka Reid so worthwhile. Adding that her experiences with larger groups are both challenging and liberating, she deftly shoots down some of his more arcane suggestions for her musical future.