Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Kris Davis: Free Jazz In New York

Kris Davis (piano)

In just a short span of under 10 years, Kris Davis has become a significant figure in the New York and European jazz community. Born in Canada but residing in New York, Kris Davis was classically trained on piano but quickly turned to jazz after moving to New York in the late '90s. She has built an impressive and eclectic career through her unconventional arrangements and the establishment of solid core of musicians she regularly performs with.

When listening specifically to Davis during some of her recordings I hear echoes of Cecil Taylor or Keith Jarrett (trio era), which may or may not be the case but the complexity of the compositions and the quality of the performance call to mind these legends. While not necessarily a frequent live performer, when does step to the stage you can expect a deeply intense and imaginative outing with free flowing tempos and challenging chords from her piano and her rhythm section.

Kris Davis has recorded on three albums under her own leadership (Rye Eclipse, Slightest Shift, Lifespan) all for the Fresh Sounds/New Talent label. They are highly accomplished free jazz selections that should not be missed. While Kris Davis does have an album coming out later this month called Good Citizen (Fresh Sounds/New Talent), her most recent album is a Paradoxical Frog (Clean Feed; 2010) and its an absolute feast for the free jazz fanatic.

Paradoxical Frog features a trio of Davis, Ingrid Laubrock (sax) and Tyshawn Sorey (drums). All three musicians are equally dominate throughout the proceedings. Davis contributes the three pieces to the recording, including the beautifully improvised and chaotic opener "Iron Spider" which travels big beat tempo and introspective bliss with tight wire ease.

Tyshwan Sorey contributes two tracks including the almost extremely quiet yet complex "Homograph" which makes Davis and Sorey seem distant and remote in it audible range but works incredible well when set in with the rest of the recording. Ingrid Laubrock almost Coltrane-esque performance throughout is marvelous on the title track and "Ghost Machine" in which she brings a dynamic that makes a yearning for the aforementioned legend but also the crazy rhythmic structures of Henry Threadgill or Charlie Mingus shine in my head while listening.

Paradoxical Frog is powerfully dynamic work that will not be everyone's cup to tea but its modern American free jazz at its finest coming from downtown New York. Highly recommended.

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