Pianist-Composer Kris Davis
releases her first quintet album:
Tom Rainey, drums
Ingrid Laubrock, sax
Mike Formanek, bass
Mat Maneri, violin
Kris Davis, piano
"Over the last couple of years in New York, one method for deciding where to hear jazz on a given night has been to track down the pianist Kris Davis." — The New York Times
Tickets: $15/$10 students (full-time with valid ID)
Kris Davis – a pianist-composer who offers “uncommon creative adventure,” says JazzTimes – releases her first quintet album, the characteristically kaleidoscopic Capricorn Climber, via Clean Feed Records on February 1, 2013. Long favored by her peers and jazz fans in the know, Davis has earned high praise from no less than star pianist and MacArthur “Genius” Grant honoree Jason Moran, who included her in his Best of 2012 piece in Art Forum, writing: “A freethinking, gifted pianist on the scene, Davis lives in each note that she plays. Her range is impeccable; she tackles prepared piano, minimalism and jazz standards, all under one umbrella. I consider her an honorary descendant of Cecil Taylor and a welcome addition to the fold.” This sixth album as a leader from the Vancouver-born, Brooklyn-based Davis sees her joined by kindred spirits Ingrid Laubrock (tenor saxophone), Mat Maneri (viola), Trevor Dunn (double-bass) and Tom Rainey (drums).
The seeds of Capricorn Climber were sown with an all-improvised show at the intimate club Barbès in Brooklyn, with the quintet lineup meshing so well together that Davis was inspired to compose an album’s worth of music for the group – while aiming to retain the fresh, spontaneous feel of that initial performance. Davis says: “Blurring the line between composition and improvisation is always my ideal, but it’s particularly the case with this band. This album is very much about the sound of surprise. A few of the compositions end with an extended Coda- something I was experimenting with that takes the music to another place.”
Featuring some of Davis’s most beautiful music to date, Capricorn Climber ranges from the tune-rich and grooving (“Pass the Magic Hat”) to the atmospheric and otherworldly (“Bottom of the Well”), although tracks often take striking left turns (as with the somnambulist’s trip of “Dreamers in a Daze”). It’s a richly textured album, with Maneri’s viola adding a sort of sensual glue to the arrangements. “Mat plays in the cracks – finding the music there,” Davis explains. “He rides that wave between foreground and background. Having two stringed instruments, with viola and double-bass, also gives us more textural possibility. Trevor is a bassist I’ve always wanted to work with. He plays in so many contexts, from improvised to rock, that he brings different perspectives to the music.
“With Tom, he’s a drummer who is very compositionally minded,” Davis adds. “So when we improvise, we’re always thinking about the structure of the piece, knowing where the music is going, being in tune with the next stop. Tom is also great at interacting texturally with the piano, a constant source of inspiration. As for Ingrid, we also play in the collaborative trio Paradoxical Frog – we’re used to finding space to play together, improvising counterpoint that is uniquely us. The music of this album is very much a shared experience. I wanted the written material to be manipulated by each player so that everyone has an active role in shaping the pieces. That’s what helps the music sound different every time, new.”
Davis happens to be a Capricorn, and the title of Capricorn Climber came thanks to saxophonist Tony Malaby, a mentor to Davis and a longtime collaborator. Davis wrote the extraordinary arrangements for Malaby’s nonet project Novela, with the album Novela released by Clean Feed in 2011 and appearing on Best of the Year lists in DownBeat and JazzTimes. Davis made her debut on record as a leader with Lifespan (Fresh Sound New Talent, 2003), followed by three progressively inventive and acclaimed albums for the Fresh Sound label: the quartet discs The Slightest Shift (2006) and Rye Eclipse (2008) and the trio set Good Citizen (2010). Davis’s 2011 solo piano album on Clean Feed, Aeriol Piano, appeared on Best of the Year lists in The New York Times, JazzTimes and Art Forum. The pianist is part of the collaborative Paradoxical Frog with Laubrock and drummer Tyshawn Sorey; their eponymous 2011 album on Clean Feed was included on Best of the Year lists by National Public Radio, The New York Times and All About Jazz.
Davis has become a vital presence on the New York jazz scene, with The New York Times featuring her in a recent article titled “New Pilots at the Keyboard.” The Jazz Gallery has given her a commissioning residency for 2013, and the Shifting Foundation awarded her a grant to compose and record a large-ensemble project. In addition to her work as a leader, Davis has performed with such top figures as Paul Motian, Tim Berne, Bill Frisell, John Hollenbeck, Kermit Driscoll, Michael Formanek, Ralph Alessi and Mary Halvorson. Davis started playing piano at age 6, studying classical music through the Royal Conservatory in Canada and formulating her desire for a life in music by playing in the school jazz band at age 12. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Jazz Piano from the University of Toronto. The pianist received a Canada Council grant to relocate to New York and study composition with Jim McNeely, then another to study extended piano techniques with Benoit Delbecq in Paris. She holds a master’s in Classical Composition from the City College of New York, and she teaches at the School for Improvised Music and City College. About her art, JazzTimes has declared: “Davis draws you in so effortlessly that the brilliance of what she’s doing doesn’t hit you until the piece has slipped past you.”