Saturday, October 05, 2019

Kris Davis - Diatom Ribbons (Pyroclastic Records, 2019)

Inspired by the natural world and it's dynamic nature, pianist and composer Kris Davis convened an all-star cast for her latest album. Drawing not only on jazz, but spoken word, hip-hop and experimental music, she has created a fresh and challenging album, developing relationships with fellow musicians, who build off of the music she created during her week long residency at The Stone in 2018. Inviting this large group of multifaceted musicians allow the proceedings to go in unexpected directions as the sparks fly in this excellent album. The opening track "Diatom Ribbons" uses the recorded voice of Cecil Taylor, backed by the dark and percussive piano of Davis. Taylor talks about the value of music and how it can save you, and the spiritual aspects of the sound. Horns by JD Allen and Tony Malaby frame the middle section, and then split off for some fine tenor saxophone solo statements. "Rhizomes" has the guitar of Nels Cline on deck, with some rhyming and scratching in the background along with excellent bass playing. Cline breaks out over a crushing Terri Lyne Carrington drumbeat and lays down some snarling tones, developing a deep and gnarly solo. Ches Smith is at the heart of "Stone's Throw" which is taken at a medium tempo with percussion, bass and piano along with Smith's subtle vibraphone. It is a subtle and restrained performance that works very well; Smith sounds great on that instrument and the rest of the group works very well with him. Esperanza Spalding adds spoken word to "Certain Cells" as a fast drum and bass rhythm grows, piano cords chime in as the music develops adding a mysterious air to the performance, and Nels Cline's quavering guitar moves uneasily just below the surface. "Golgi Complex (The Sequel)" has Marc Ribot upsetting the apple cart, throwing lightning bolts of electric guitar from the start in a thrilling fashion, along with a taut rhythm section, he is just scorching the earth. The music calms, held together with electric bass and excellent piano playing, and solid drums making for a fine three way improvisation. Ribot bursts back in like an unwelcome house guest, and is in rare form playing wild and unfettered guitar over the rest of the band. With both Cline and Ribot on hand, "Golgi Complex" starts out even wilder, with a free opening as everyone does their thing, creating glorious cacophony, from slashing guitars to bounding piano chords. This is free jazz of a higher purpose as everyone is working together to form a collective improvisation that is going to push the boundaries of what can really be done, and their creativity and imagination seal the deal. "Reflection" closes the album with a long jam, at twelve minutes at length easily the longest track on the album, with gracefully rising horns from Allen and Malaby and lush beautiful piano playing. The music develops episodically and gracefully building in solos for each of the horn players and allowing the full band to make its mark as well. This was a fascinating album filled with diverse sounds and approaches to composition and improvisation. But the music still remains accessible and lively, flowing well and making a coherent statement as an album. The CD itself is quite impressive too, with a full color booklet complete with excellent pictures, lengthy liner notes and discographical and scientific information. Diatom Ribbons -

Send comments to Tim.