The young, New York City-based pianist Kris Davis already has an impressive discography to her name: six albums as a leader, and two titles from Paradoxical Frog, the cooperative of which she's a member. That working group of equals also includes two other next-gen N.Y.C. heavyweights, saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock (formerly of Germany) and drummer Tyshawn Sorey. Davis shares several formal traits with both artists, but first among them is the chamber-music-like space she gives her music, right up until she unleashes a quick blast of free-jazz intensity. (Listen to the expertly modulated attack of "Recession Special" to hear Davis' total control over her soft-touch moments, as well as the pounding ones.)
This year brings us Capricorn Climber, a new album with Mat Maneri on viola, Laubrock on sax, and Trevor Dunn and Tom Rainey on bass and drums (respectively). It's some of Davis' most assured and subtle work -- including how the opening of "Pass the Magic Hat" at first harkens back to some of her early, less aggressively complex (but still plenty toothy) work -- as on the album Lifespan. (On the new one, things soon get woollier, however.)
Whether playing a standard every now and again (see her rad take on "All the Things You Are," from Aeriol Piano) or blazing new trails, Davis has a distinct sound. Check out examples from all of the above albums, and others, in the appended playlist.