Kris Davis: Lifespan (2004)
A Canadian who moved to New York in 2001, Davis has been gradually insinuating herself into the downtown music scene and has, for this release, surrounded herself with a fine group of established players. Saxophonist Tony Malaby, who has played with artists including Joey DeFrancesco, Mario Pavone and Marty Erlich, has a lyrical approach that is just left-of-centre enough to keep things interesting on the oblique "Jo-ann." Trumpeter Russ Johnson, most recently heard on violinist Jenny Scheinman's stunning Shalagaster , delivers a sinuous solo on "Even Eivind."
Bassist Eivind Opsvik, who has worked with Carla Bley, Marc Copland and Craig Taborn, is a progressive player who carefully balances lyrical invention with tighter ensemble work. Reed player Jason Rigby and drummer Jeff Davis round out the group, with Davis delivering a rhythmically charged solo over Opsvik's ostinato on "Nein."
Davis has a writing style that has already, at this early stage, developed into a unique sound. Her material would fit comfortably within an ECM context; while there is intensity to be found, the overall approach is more inward-looking. While not averse to more expressionist leanings as evidenced on the modal workout "Endless," her compositions are more inclined towards the impressionism of "Argyha" and "Lifespan." With the power of a sextet at her disposal, she is also capable of chamber-like delicacy on "Travel Far."
Her work leans more to a European approach; still, she manages to display her roots in the American tradition on "The Epic." Her playing shows the influence of Mal Waldron, but is less overtly rhythmical; she demonstrates a free style that owes something to Marilyn Crispell, but is lighter, more delicate; there is also a romantic side to her playing that differentiates her from these sources.
With a distinctive left-leaning compositional and playing style, Kris Davis is establishing herself as an artist of note. Lifespan is an auspicious debut that also shows off her abilities as a bandleader; by putting the music first she demonstrates a remarkable musical maturity that can only bode well for the future.
Track Listing: Jo-ann; Argyha; Travel Far; Lifespan; Even Eivind; Nein; Endless; The Epic
Personnel: Kris Davis (piano), Tony Malaby (tenor sax on "Jo-ann" and "Argyha," soprano sax on "Even Eivind"), Russ Johnson (flugelhorn on "Jo-ann" and "Even Eivind," trumpet on "The Epic"), Jason Rigby (tenor sax on "Endless" and "The Epic," soprano sax on "Travel Far," bass clarinet on "Jo-ann," clarinet on "The Epic"), Eivind Opsvik (acoustic bass), Jeff Davis (drums)
Record Label: Fresh Sound New Talent
Style: Modern Jazz