Mary Halvorson’s Reverse Blue at the Stone 2/4/18 (by Caroline Davis)


PERSONNEL: Mary Halvorson (guitar), Chris Speed (tenor saxophone, clarinet), Eivind Opsvik (bass), Tomas Fujiwara (drums)

SET LIST: Reverse Blue (Halvorson), Torturer’s Reverse Delight (Halvorson), Echinochloa (Halvorson), Rebel’s Revue (Opsvik), Insomniac’s Delight (Fujiwara), Resting on Laurels (Opsvik), Really OK (Speed), Back Down Slowly (Halvorson)

HIGHLIGHTS: I was brought back to my youthful angst with Mary’s “Torturer’s Reverse Delight” which started with some interweaving madrigal-esque melodies which transformed into a grunge rock solo section, over which both Chris and Mary slayed.

I caught Mary on the last day of her weeklong residency at the Stone in the East Village on a rainy Superbowl Sunday. Although a larger portion of the tunes were by Halvorson, Reverse Blue is a true collaborative effort. (Collaborative bands seem to be more and more common in New York.)

Their namesake tune connected its melody through funk to a light waltz to a bouncy swing and back again. Mary runs the gamut of styles and grooves in all her music. The band ventured into open territory during Mary’s solo, and then miraculously returned home again, ending with a darling clarinet trill.

Chris Speed is generous on both clarinet and tenor. In “Echinochloa,” he included a wide warble in his already beautiful tone, which complemented the laconic energy of the piece. There was a nice moment between Opsvik and Speed, where they both pressed into a note at the same time and their sounds folded into each other. The song ended with an open bass solo, pulsing and driving without being overly aggressive.

“Resting on Laurels” offered lots of interlocking rhythms in the meat of the piece, but then retreating to a beautiful cloud of texture (bells, clarinet exasperations, bowed bass frenzies, pointillistic delayed guitar statements) that led back to a shorter version of the melody and a quick halt.

Tomas’s drumming offers a terrain outside the realm of the day-to-day. He is sensitive to the timbral and pocket needs of a piece, but he’s also a catalyst. Like all the other members of Reverse Blue, he pushes the band to heights not yet reached. Seeking the new is a common thread that ties these four musicians together.

by Caroline Davis