When you see Mary Halvorson on stage, she doesn't look like much of a trailblazer. She plays sitting down. She's small, and mostly hidden behind her hollow-body guitar and glasses. But then she starts to play. And the sounds coming out of her amp are anything but conventional.
"I do like things that are unexpected," Halvorson says. "I often don't like music that's predictable, so you know what's coming next. I like to throw in things that maybe are a little less predictable."
Over the past decade, the 36-year-old guitarist and composer has found increasing attention and acclaim, leading her own groups in the man's world of jazz and wielding her instrument so distinctively, one music journalist described her approach as "anti-guitar." She insists that is not intentional.
"I'm not really thinking about being weird, if that makes sense?" she says. "I'm just trying to play some music I like. And it often comes out weird."
Halvorson discovered the electric guitar when she was 11, growing up in Brookline, Massachusetts. But she went to college at Wesleyan University in Connecticut planning to be a biologist. Then she walked into a music class taught by Anthony Braxton, the MacArthur "genius" grant-winning composer and saxophonist.