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Festival International de Jazz de Montréal 2019: Week 2

Mark Sullivan By

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Kris Davis

Canadian pianist Kris Davis gave a solo piano recital for the last of the late night series at Gesù. Her opening piece was an improvisation inspired by the twentieth century composer György Ligeti (many will know his work from the 2001: A Space Odyssey soundtrack). It was full of unusual sounds, starting with her use of two EBows on bass strings inside the piano (these are hand held electromagnetic devices which vibrate the strings, usually used by electric guitarists to mimic string sounds and for infinite sustain). A piece of duct tape muted the high treble strings, producing a dry clicking sound. Easily reversed: she tore the tape off at the end of the piece.

"Grass and Trees on the Other Side of the Tracks" is an original composition written in honor of the late avant-garde pianist Cecil Taylor. There was a big, thunderous opening that recalled Taylor's usual approach. But it also featured very quiet, lyrical playing, as well as rolling, overlapping patterns in both hands. Davis followed with an improvisation and another original composition, before easing into a version of pianist/composer Thelonious Monk's "Ask Me Now." At first the melody was only teased, but by the end it was fully present, and the most jazz sounding of anything on the program. A suitably grounded conclusion for a program that frequently headed towards the borders. Davis is both fearless and technically gifted: the show was an adventure. Adventure is one thing the festival still offers, in dazzling variety.

Photo Credit: Dave Kaufman

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