THE 13 BEST JAZZ ALBUMS OF 2021
Sylvie Courvoisier and Mary Halvorson – Searching for the Disappeared Hour (Pyroclastic)
The Swiss pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and the American guitarist Mary Halvorson recorded their first duet album, Crop Circles, in 2016 after a single concert. This new one follows much more playing, and the simpatico is now utter and a wonder. Both are players in the New Jazz world who value strong writing and how it connects to improvisation that is not defined or bounded by sets of chord changes.
The writing here is mostly very tonal and “pretty”, bringing to mind some older chamber jazz as much it does any classical New Music. Halvorson and Courvoisier have said that the classic Bill Evans/Jim Hall duets were a model. But the real action, on the composed pieces and several freely improvised ones, is how expertly the piano and guitar weave around and complement each other. Halvorson’s quirky use of her pitch-bending delay pedal is now at a level of stunning control, and she seems positively lyrical more often than not. Courvoisier plays her percussive instrument with a touch that is paradoxically both light and drum-like.