Friday, April 06, 2018

Kris Davis and Craig Taborn - Octopus (Pyroclastic Records, 2018)

A few years ago, pianist Kris Davis began her own record label with the album Duopoly, an ambitious CD/DVD set of her in duets with musicians as diverse as Bill Frisell, Tim Berne and Don Byron. But the most interesting collaboration was with a fellow pianist, Craig Taborn. They clicked so well that they went on tour together, recording selections from their concerts for this collection. "Interruptions One" opens the album beginning in deep space, with quiet drops of notes and light touches on both keyboards. The pace gradually picks up with nimble and fast playing of high pitched piano, with occasional low end punctuation, leading to the rapid trading of interesting ideas before dropping back to quiet spaciousness for the conclusion. Presumably inspired by the town north of New York City, "Ossining" shows the duo playing inside and outside the piano, and developing an alluring West African influenced sound in the process. This adds a mysterious tinge to the music, which becomes slow and patient to the point where there are single notes hanging in the air. Like wind chimes caressed by the slightest breeze, they softly push back against the silence. "Chatterbox" is aptly named, as the musicians produce rippling eddies of piano that gab away merrily while improvising using volume and speed in an exciting manner. They turn to heavier, more percussive playing, as if sending messages encoded within the notes, as waves of keyboard create light and shade in the current of the music. There is a return to the quieter and meditative form on the medley of "Sing Me Softly of the Blues / Interruptions Two" which opens with a slowly building foundation developing into more full bodied playing with a ripe and infectious sound. Quickly moving into a lashing four handed lift off, with strong percussive technique that is well articulated. There's a dynamic drop off, a feint in another direction, before Davis and Taborn dive back in to a finishing statement of muscular notes and chords that mesh together perfectly. The album is concluded with Sun Ra's "Love in Outer Space" which begins like a quiet transmission from the beyond, enveloping the music with an aura of the unknown, as they gracefully explore the quiet and meditative terrain. Patiently researching the inner and outer workings of their instrument, they develop a fully cohesive reimagining of this song building a memorable rhythm and conclusion. With the passing of Cecil Taylor leaving a gaping hole in the world of progressive jazz, Davis and Taborn are prepared to step up and lead. This excellent album shows that both musicians have the skill and imagination to guide the music forward toward whatever destiny it may meet. Octopus -

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