Saturday, October 08, 2016

Kris Davis - Duopoly (Pyroclastic Records, 2016)

Over the past several years Kris Davis has emerged as one of the most interesting piano players on the contemporary jazz scene. She is fearless and willing to work and prepared to improvise in any situation ranging from solo piano to large group. After casting about for ideas for her next project, she came up with the challenging idea of duets, some which were minimally prepared and some of which were completely spontaneous. Upping the ante was the idea of meeting fellow musicians that she had long admired but had never recorded with in the past, a risky strategy, but one that was guaranteed to enhance the freshness of the music. This album presents one audio disc of the minimally arranged materials, originals and a few rare standards, and then there is a second disc of Davis freely improvising with the said colleagues, recored in stark black and white video, split screen to show each musician and the way in which they interact while improvising in real time. This is a very intimate album, you feel like you are very close to the musicians as they work together. It is very interesting to hear how she interacts with different musicians and musical instruments, whether it is the likes of Bill Frisell and Julian Lage on guitar, Marcus Gilmore and Billy Drummond on percussion, fellow pianists Craig Taborn and Angelica Sanchez or reed players Tim Berne and Don Byron. The music develops as a sound collage, with the musicians probing and developing their art in particular and challenging ways. The pieces that are ostensibly free are in a real sense instant compositions where two minds meet with logic and reason to explore a larger canvas. a larger space/time dynamic, which allows the music to move in any dimension at will. This was a very courageous recording, one which allowed listeners and viewers into the music at an almost atomic level, and allowing the audience profound access into this artist's mind and also showcasing how she can be a catalyst into the minds of others. Duopoly -

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