Bar code: 8427328421782
Kris Davis' debut CD life span on Fresh Sound Records highlights the young New York-based pianists' ability for writing intriguing compositions and features her as a skilled improviser. Kris venturous musical efforts are quickly making a place for her on the New York music scene. Originally from Canada, Kris came to New York to study composition with prominent composer Jim McNeely and to experience the rich creative environment New York has to offer. The eight original compositions on life span reveal Kris endeavors during this period of growth and exploration. Featuring New York greats Tony Malaby on saxophone, Russ Johnson on trumpet, Jason Rigby on saxophones and clarinets, Kris Davis on piano, Eivind Opsvik on bass and Jeff Davis on drums, the group explores the balance between structure and freedom within the framework of each composition and displays an underlying intensity that heightens throughout this debut recording.
"Focusing on composition as much as performance, this intriguing programme of originals balances form and structure with free-flowing improvisation. Lifespan is an album that sneaks up gradually; there is much to recommend in this set which is long on lyricism, short on unnecessary displays of technique. The members of this group can play and they know it; consequently the emphasis is on taking the compositional frameworks that newcomer Kris Davis provides and expanding on them in ways that shows everyones abilities while being, at the same time, somehow selfless.
A Canadian who moved to New York in 2001, Davis has been gradually insinuating herself into the downtown music scene and has, for this release, surrounded herself with a fine group of established players. Saxophonist Tony Malaby, who has played with artists including Joey DeFrancesco, Mario Pavone and Marty Erlich, has a lyrical approach that is just left-of-centre enough to keep things interesting on the oblique Jo-ann. Trumpeter Russ Johnson, most recently heard on violinist Jenny Scheinmans stunning Shalagaster, delivers a sinuous solo on Even Eivind.
Bassist Eivind Opsvik, who has worked with Carla Bley, Marc Copland and Craig Taborn, is a progressive player who carefully balances lyrical invention with tighter ensemble work. Reed player Jason Rigby and drummer Jeff Davis round out the group, with Davis delivering a rhythmically charged solo over Opsviks ostinato on Nein.
Davis has a writing style that has already, at this early stage, developed into a unique sound. Her material would fit comfortably within an ECM context; while there is intensity to be found, the overall approach is more inward-looking. While not averse to more expressionist leanings as evidenced on the modal workout Endless, her compositions are more inclined towards the impressionism of Argyha and Lifespan. With the power of a sextet at her disposal, she is also capable of chamber-like delicacy on Travel Far.
Her work leans more to a European approach; still, she manages to display her roots in the American tradition on The Epic. Her playing shows the influence of Mal Waldron, but is less overtly rhythmical; she demonstrates a free style that owes something to Marilyn Crispell, but is lighter, more delicate; there is also a romantic side to her playing that differentiates her from these sources.
With a distinctive left-leaning compositional and playing style, Kris Davis is establishing herself as an artist of note. Lifespan is an auspicious début that also shows off her abilities as a bandleader; by putting the music first she demonstrates a remarkable musical maturity that can only bode well for the future."
John Kelman -All About Jazz
"Pianist and composer Kris Davis displays considerable talent in both roles on her CD Lifespan. She weaves interesting melodic passages into her extended, discursively improvised pieces and seems particularly adept at projecting variously blue moods. The songs are compelling, though they are not always ideally paced.
The album opens with a four-note motif modulated into different keys to introduce "Jo-ann." Flugelhorn, bass clarinet and tenor sax come in, playing an interesting counterpoint curiously reminiscent of Elgar. Bassist Elvind Opsvik lays down an effective line and solo before the piece gives way to a fairly conventional feature for Tony Malaby on tenor. He plays well enough and Davis's comping is solid; it's just that you get the sense they could be doing much the same type of playing off of almost any tune in a fake book and the momentum built from the intriguing beginning is somewhat dissipated. The free workout "Argyha" fares better, building to a furious climax with throbbing work from Opsvik and drummer Jeff Davis, serialist mayhem from Ms. Davis and some good skronk from Malaby.
The balance of the album proceeds in much the same fashion. The compositional element is really solid, but too many of the solos seem to be there for their own sake and not because the songs are demanding them. A few of the tracks overstay their welcome a bit, such as the aptly named "Endless," (another piece is called "The Epic;" extra credit is given for self-deprecation) which charges on right past what would've been a perfectly acceptable terminal point.
Lifespan is a good album that could have been that much better if the artists had shown a little more restraint. Kris Davis gives us eight well thought-out original compositions here. Each piece will engage your attention, though they do not all manage to hold it for their entire duration."
Edward Kane -JazzReview.com
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