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Caroline Davis: Heart Tonic

Glenn Astarita By

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Reared in Chicago where she attained her PhD in Music Cognition at prestigious Northwestern University, alto saxophonist / composer Caroline Davis recently migrated to New York, while nestling into its fertile jazz and improvisational environs. And while this vibrant quintet date is perhaps more conventional than some of her freer works, Davis' complex harmonic fabrications ring loud and clear via these noteworthy compositions. Moreover, the album title refers to Davis' heart research to obtain a better understanding of its properties due to her father's heart ailment, serving as a principal force behind this production.

Davis' effervescent attack is often tempered by her warmly articulated phrasings and contrasted by soaring climactic buildups amid sinuous and knotty unison choruses executed with trumpeter Marquis Hill. However, the group abides by a democratic mode of operations; hence, the artists' teamwork is evident throughout the production. As the quintet imparts lovely melodies and balances the tightly coordinated frameworks with variable currents, modulating cadences, speedy bop movements, dabs of jazz fusion and the Latin element.

The quintet blends a piquant Afro-Cuban groove into an airy, yet buoyant vibe, along with zesty soloing spots by the frontline on "Loss." Yet the following track "Constructs," is an invigorating, up-tempo bop sojourn and "Air," is an cheery ballad, solidified by bassist Tamir Shmerling's pliant bottom-end and drummer Jay Sawyer's gentle cymbal swashes and snappy rim-shots. However, the primary theme implicates a march progression, expanded by Julian Shore's animated piano solo, leading to melodic subplots as the band steadily raises the pitch with an upward trajectory, followed by a soothing fadeout.

The album finale "Ocean Motion," is formed with intricate percussion treatments within a simmering Latin motif, including knotty unison phrasings and the hornists' extended notes, shaded by Shore's dark synth passages. But the musicians rebuild the primary theme with regal statements and movements akin to fitting pieces into a puzzle, intensified by Sawyer's burgeoning press rolls and polyrhythmic undercurrents.

Even though Davis hovers near a straightforward modern jazz approach it's not a grassroots effort where everyone plays it safe, partly due to her vast musical resources, distinct creative sparks and multidimensional approach to composition. Whereas, her band rises to the occasion with great aplomb and a penchant for dishing out meticulous plot developments on a continual basis.

Track Listing: Footloose and Fancy Free; Loss; Constructs; Fortune; …TuneFor; Penelope; Dionysian; Air; Ocean Motion.

Personnel: Caroline Davis: alto saxophone; Marquis Hill: trumpet; Julian Shore: piano, Fender Rhodes, Yamaha DX7, Roland JD-Xi; Tamir Shmerling: acoustic and electric bass; Jay Sawyer: drums. Special Guests – Rogerio Boccato: percussion (2,9); Benjamin Hoffmann: organ (4,5).

Title: Heart Tonic | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records

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