Kris Davis: Rye Eclipse & Outright!
Canadian born, Brooklyn-based pianist Kris Davis made inroads into the public consciousness with a pair of albums on Fresh Sound-New Talent with her quartet of saxophonist Tony Malaby, bassist Eivind Opsvik and drummer Jeff Davis. The four have been exploring her compositions for three albums now (the first release was actually by a quintet with trumpeter Russ Johnson) and have developed into a group that can maneuver through all of their little "minefields" that can trip up even an accomplished improviser.
The pieces on Rye Eclipse are open enough to show the players' individuality yet are also compositions where all four players are breathing as one. The title track is a good case in point. It alternates pounding, dense, skronking passages with those of uneasy, spectral harmonics-filled calm. "Prarie Eyes" revolves around repetitive piano patterns over which Malaby frosts the melody and bass and drums offer commentary. The opening passages of "Empty Beehive" hover effectively in near silence before building up to its climactic apex. "Minnow Bucket" is a brief track with Malaby and Davis alternating parts of the theme before settling into a staggered rhythmic lurch until its conclusion, a musical question mark.
Davis' compositions are unusual and effective with something unique to offer. This is a true quartet and no one musician stands outMalaby's burly tenor is as much a part of the group fabric as a solo voice, Davis' piano is full of fleeting melodic lines, harmonically rich chords and abrupt bashing jabs and the rhythm section functions as a cohesive unit. All of this makes Davis' group into one of the more exciting propositions in today's jazz fabric.
Another exciting proposition is saxophonist Jon Irabagon's group Outright! (exclamation point included in the name). Part of the reason is that three-quarters of the Kris Davis Quartet discussed above (the Davises and Opsvik) form part of Outright! and the remaining member is another familiar figure in trumpeter Russ Johnson.
Irabagon's program operates in similar areas to Davis' but he has his own ideas. The 12-minute "Quorum Call" starts at a barely audible volume, building its range over a span of five minutes when it takes off in an unexpected direction. Electronics (courtesy of Chris Cash) are overlaid including a frenetic drum and bass rhythm. The piece ends in a squall of electronics that segues nicely into the next track, a well-warped version of "Groovin' High."
Not everything here works. "Outright! Theme" is performed by the Original Outright! Jass Band of 20+ members and starts out with a jaunty, almost-Dixieland styled theme before tumbling into a lengthy free section that's a messy morass. It's a good idea but it's poorly executed and, at over ten minutes, goes on way too long. But apart from the lapse of that misdirected track, Irabagon's disc contains some worthwhile music.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Rye Eclipse; Wayne Oskar; Prairie Eyes; Minnow Bucket; Empty Beehive; Samuro; Black Tunnel; Rye Resurrected.
Personnel; Kris Davis: piano; Tony Malaby: tenor saxophone; Eivind Opsvik: bass; Jeff Davis: drums.
Tracks: Anchors (By Design); Quorum Call; Groovin' High; That Was Then; Outright! Theme; Charles Barkley; Oddjob.
Personnel: Jon Irabagon: alto saxophone; Russ Johnson: trumpet; Kris Davis: piano, organ; Eivind Opsvik: bass; Jeff Davis: drums.
Chris Cash: programming (on Quorum Call); Jesse Lewis: guitar (on That Was Then);
Original Outright! Jass Band (on Outright! Theme): C.J. Camerieri: trumpet; Russ Johnson: trumpet; Kirk Knuffke: trumpet; Justin Ray: trumpet; Nathan Warner: trumpet; Jason Gillenwater: clarinet; Peter Van Huffel: soprano saxophone; Jon Irabagon: alto saxophone; Andrew Neff: alto saxophone; Loren Stillman: alto saxophone; Steve Frieder: tenor saxophone; Bryan Murray: tenor saxophone; Jason Rigby: tenor saxophone; Samir Zarif: tenor saxophone; Carl Maraght: baritone saxophone; Tim Vaughn: trombone; John Yao: trombone; Max Siegel: bass trombone; Jack Broad: guitar; Scott DuBois: guitar; Jesse Lewis: guitar; Terry McManus: guitar; Rich Miletic: acoustic guitar; Kris Davis: piano; Alex Smith: organ; Matt Grason: electric bass; Linda Oh: electric bass; Michael Bates: bass; Moppa Elliott: bass; Eivind Opsvik: bass; Jeff Davis: drums.