- In-person event
Code Girl is the latest project of guitarist and composer Mary Halvorson, and her first project for which she has composed both lyrics and music. The band has been described as “...a bold experiment in song form” by The New York Times. Deftly interpreted by Amirtha Kidambi (vocals), Adam O’Farrill (trumpet), Brian Settles (tenor saxophone), Michael Formanek (bass) and Tomas Fujiwara (drums), the music synthesizes influences of jazz, folk and improvisation to create an original take on songwriting. Code Girl’s debut album was a top ten record in the 2018 annual NPR Jazz Critics Poll.
“Halvorson's music has always had the capacity to surprise, but Code Girl amounts to the most startling move in her solo career.” -Nate Chinen, NPR
“With strong compositions delivered by an excellent ensemble, the album's puzzles remain a treat to continually almost crack.” -Justin Cober-Lake, PopMatters
“(Code Girl) is an album that touches upon various musical traditions in oblique fashion, but it’s most recognizable as yet another major step in Halvorson’s meteoric ascent.” -Peter Margasak, bandcamp daily
Guitarist and composer Mary Halvorson has been described as “a singular talent” (Lloyd Sachs, JazzTimes), ”NYC’s least-predictable improviser” (Howard Mandel, City Arts), “one of the most exciting and original guitarists in jazz—or otherwise” (Steve Dollar, Wall Street Journal), and “one of today’s most formidable bandleaders” (Francis Davis, Village Voice). In recent Downbeat Critics Polls Halvorson has been celebrated as guitarist, rising star jazz artist, and rising star composer of the year, and in 2019 she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. Halvorson has released a series of critically acclaimed albums on the Firehouse 12 label, from Dragon’s Head (2008), her trio debut featuring bassist John Hébert and drummer Ches Smith, expanding to a quintet with trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson and alto saxophonist Jon Irabagon on Saturn Sings (2010) and Bending Bridges (2012), a septet with tenor saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and trombonist Jacob Garchik on Illusionary Sea (2014), and finally an octet with pedal steel guitarist Susan Alcorn on Away With You (2016). She also released the solo recording Meltframe (2015), and most recently debuted her song project Code Girl (2018). One of New York City’s most in-demand guitarists, over the past decade Halvorson has worked with such diverse musicians as Tim Berne, Anthony Braxton, Taylor Ho Bynum, John Dieterich, Trevor Dunn, Bill Frisell, Ingrid Laubrock, Jason Moran, Joe Morris, Tom Rainey, Jessica Pavone, Tomeka Reid, Marc Ribot and John Zorn. She is also part of several collaborative projects, most notably the longstanding trio Thumbscrew with Michael Formanek on bass and Tomas Fujiwara on drums.
Amirtha Kidambi is a vocalist, composer and improviser, playing in groups including the Early Music inspired dark folk band Seaven Teares, the analog percussion and light ensemble Ashcan Orchestra, and Darius Jones’ vocal quartet Elizabeth-Caroline Unit. As an improviser and collaborator, she has played with Matana Roberts, Daniel Carter, Darius Jones, Trevor Dunn, Jaimie Branch, Brandon Lopez, and many innovators in the New York scene. Recent projects and upcoming collaborations include the premiere of AACM founder and legendary composer/pianist Muhal Richard Abrams’ Dialogue Social, Darius Jones’ The Oversoul Manual at Carnegie Hall, a premiere of electronic composer Ben Vida’s work Slipping Control for voice and electronics with Tyondai Braxton at the Borderline Festival in Athens, Greece, the premiere of the late Robert Ashley’s final opera CRASH, and a commission from the Jerome Foundation for her own quartet Elder Ones (Matt Nelson, Brandon Lopez, Max Jaffe) at Roulette, followed by a residency at EMPAC to record the group’s debut album, with a November 2016 release planned. Amirtha is a 2016-2017 Asian Cultural Council Fellow, and will travel to India for intensive study in Carnatic vocal music.
Brooklyn-bred Adam O’Farrill has emerged as a “rising star as a player and composer” (PopMatters) and “a blazing young trumpet talent” (The New York Times). Beginning his career in his teenage years performing with his father, the pianist and composer Arturo O’Farrill, Adam has gone on to work with a wide range of artists such as Mary Halvorson, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Mulatu Astatke, Brasstracks, Kambui Olujimi, Samora Pinderhughes, Sarah Kay, and Anna Webber. His most recent album, 2018’s El Maquech (Biophilia Records) received critical acclaim, including the Wall Street Journal, who wrote that “the band presents rambunctious music that is equally rustic and modern,” as well as receiving Best of the Year mentions from The Boston Globe and the NPR Jazz Critics Poll. In both 2019 and 2021, O’Farrill won the Downbeat Critics Poll for Rising Star Trumpeter. Adam has been recognized and awarded for his composing as well, receiving commissions and grants from The Jazz Gallery, The Shifting Foundation, Metropolis Ensemble, and ASCAP.
Saxophonist and composer Brian Settles has established himself as a rising force with a long-term artistic vision. Settles blends the outwardly engaging with the deeply personal, reconciling his intimate command of the jazz lineage with a commitment to his own experimental voice. He performs regularly and has recorded with some of modern jazz’s leading groups, including Jonathan Finlayson Sextet and Quartet, Chad Taylor Trio, Michael Formanek’s Ensemble Kolossus, and bands led by Jason Moran and Joe Chambers; Settles has also accompanied the likes of Gil Scott-Heron and Tomas Stanko.
One marker of bassist Michael Formanek's creativity and versatility is the range of distinguished musicians of several generations he's worked with. While still a teenager in the 1970s he toured with drummer Tony Williams and saxophonist Joe Henderson; starting in the '80s he played long stints with Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Fred Hersch and Freddie Hubbard. The bassist has played a pivotal role on New York's creative jazz scene going back to the '90s when he notably led his own quintet and played in Tim Berne's barnstorming quartet Bloodcount. Nowadays Formanek's in the co-op Thumbscrew with Brooklyn guitarist Mary Halvorson and drummer Tomas Fujiwara. Formanek is also a composer and leader of various bands. His principal recording and international touring vehicle is his acclaimed quartet with Tim Berne on alto saxophone, Craig Taborn on piano and Gerald Cleaver on drums, which records for ECM; 2010's The Rub and Spare Change and 2012's Small Places both earned coveted five-star raves in Downbeat. Formanek writes, and the quartet plays, compositions of great rhythmic sophistication that unfold in a natural sounding way – challenging music the players make sound like lyrical free expression. His occasional groups include the 18-piece all-star Ensemble Kolossus, roping in many New York improvisers he works with. Ensemble Kolossus recorded their first CD of all Formanek originals, The Distance, for the prestigious ECM label that was released in February of 2016, and received a five-star review in Downbeat.
Tomas Fujiwara is a Brooklyn-based drummer, composer, and band leader. Described as “a ubiquitous presence in the New York scene…an artist whose urbane writing is equal to his impressively nuanced drumming” (Point of Departure), Tomas is an active player in some of the most exciting music of the current generation, with his bands Triple Double, 7 Poets Trio, and Tomas Fujiwara & The Hook Up; the collective trio Thumbscrew (with Mary Halvorson and Michael Formanek); and a diversity of creative work with Anthony Braxton, John Zorn, Mary Halvorson, Matana Roberts, Joe Morris, Taylor Ho Bynum, Nicole Mitchell, Ben Goldberg, Tomeka Reid, Amir ElSaffar, Benoit Delbecq, and many others. “Drummer Tomas Fujiwara works with rhythm as a pliable substance, solid but ever shifting. His style is forward-driving but rarely blunt or aggressive, and never random. He has a way of spreading out the center of a pulse while setting up a rigorous scaffolding of restraint…A conception of the drum set as a full-canvas instrument, almost orchestral in its scope.” (New York Times).