Get Up With: Kris Davis' Piano
by Seth Colter Walls | July 1, 2015
The young, New York City-based pianist Kris Davis already has an impressive discography to her name: nine 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.)
In recent years, she's brought us Capricorn Climber, an album with Mat Maneri on viola, Laubrock on sax, and Trevor Dunn and Tom Rainey on bass and drums (respectively). It contains some of Davis' most assured and subtle work. Check out 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. And recent long-players like Waiting for You to Grow (featuring intense small-ensemble playing), Save Your Breath (which spotlights Davis' largest ensemble) and Massive Threads (a blazing solo piano outing) are all worth your time, too.
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.