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Caroline Davis

Caroline Davis
Vincenzo Roggero By

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After honing her skills on the Chicago scene, Caroline Davis has rapidly established herself as an in-demand musician and educator in New York, where she moved in 2013, and internationally. Her debut album, Live Work & Play, was featured on All About Jazz's best releases. The leader or co-leader of several interesting projects, ranging from her quintet to the duos Maitri and Alula, with Matt Mitchell, Caroline's voracious music interests, which go well beyond jazz, made her the perfect candidate for this column. Here's what she's been listening to...

1. Arthur Russell, Tower of Meaning (Chatham Square, 1983)

I started listening to Arthur Russell back in 2009, and there is so much music to listen to (most of it seems to be unreleased). I found out about this record from Peter Zummo when I saw him playing at the Queens museum for ETERNiDAY in 2014 with a band called Bear 54. Peter plays trombone and was a frequent collaborator of Russell's back in the 70s. He mentioned this one in conversation, but it took me a while to sit down and listen to it. This album, originally released on Philip Glass's label, is unique in that it's completely instrumental, and because of Russell's vision of orchestral music. All the music was intended to accompany a play by Robert Wilson, but it didn't work out, so it was just released as is. Side A includes several pieces that end abruptly, perhaps not planned, and side B is just one long piece. In general, the music on this album kind of stands still in a weird way, there aren't any grandiose rhythmic events or modulations, but I hear movement through a visual medium, if that makes any sense. It's raw and piecemeal, which are both qualities I love about his music. I wouldn't say this is my favorite of his, but, Arthur, I hear you!

2. Warne Marsh, Ne Plus Ultra (hatOLOGY, 1970)

I came to know Warne Marsh through the inimitable Lee Konitz, who often says he's the best there ever was. This is a good album that I found out about through Stafford Chamberlain's book, "An Unsung Cat." Apparently it was Marsh's first recording as a leader since 1958 when he recorded with Paul Chambers and Paul Motian. What a long period that was not to record under his own name. It's interesting to have Gary Foster and Warne on the same album during this part of their careers because they sound so alike. It some moments it can be off-putting, but at the same time remarkably beautiful. Dave Parlato, who played bass with Frank Zappa and is father to vocalist Gretchen Parlato, and John Tirabasso, another LA staple, round out the quartet. What a free record—from note one it's as if they are on a divine plane, existing for the music alone. Improvisation is the number one concern here, and it stands tall within all the tracks from the standards, the lines, the free playing, and the Bach invention. It's raw, it's unplanned, and it's the truth.

3. Louis Cole, Louis Cole (Autoprodotto, 2010)

Found out about this one by way of some friends out West, as I believe he lives out there and studied jazz somewhere in L.A. I checked out some music from his other band, called Knower, recently, and I actually prefer his solo stuff to those records for reasons of musical sensitivity. This isn't a jazz record and doesn't pretend to be one. It's one of the most sonically interesting albums I've heard in a while; there's so much going on underneath the music by way of post-production or layering of different sounds. A couple tracks are instrumental, but most include his angelic singing, which sometimes goes way up in that falsetto. Every track is good; the music grooves and its message runs deep.

4. Steve Coleman, Synovial Joints (Pi Recordings, 2015)

I came to know Steve's music through Von Freeman when I was living in Chicago. Steve is from there, and he often came through to the New Apartment Lounge where Von had his weekly gig and jam session. He has released so much music over the years, but this is one of his most recent releases and features all kinds of instrumentalists including strings, woodwinds, and Jen Shyu singing her heart out, in addition to his normal group. I love this album in every way, I've been listening to it ever since it came out last year, and I just can't stop, because I hear something new every time I listen to it. The complexity has always been an attractive quality to my ears, but Steve has a way of presenting it in the kindest of ways, especially in this setting. His melodies, lines, and especially rhythmic transformations are so intriguing to me, so I'm on the path to understanding more about his compositional process by way of personal communication.

5. The Shins, Oh, Inverted World (Sub Pop Records, 2001)

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