Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

113

Kris Davis: The Slightest Shift

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Canadian-born, New York-based pianist Kris Davis takes the delicate left-leaning balance of form and freedom of her debut, Lifespan (Fresh Sound New Talent, 2004), and moves even farther away from the center on The Slightest Shift.

While Lifespan featured ensembles ranging from trio to sextet, the new record showcases Davis' working group of saxophonist Tony Malaby, bassist Eivind Opsvik and drummer Jeff Davis—all part of the first group's lineup—and consequently demonstrating the kind of collective interaction that comes from working together on an ongoing basis. The Slightest Shift is a freer record than Lifespan, reflecting a comfort zone amongst the players that nevertheless avoids becoming predictable.

On this short set of just under forty minutes, the eight compositions may seem more open-ended, but it's also a case of Davis' compositional style—one that has always reflected interests in both jazz and contemporary classical composition—maturing further. Instead of using conventional harmonic changes as a basis for improvisation, Davis' writing reflects a deeper interest in the use of linear fragments to provide a basis for the quartet to move from one place to the next.

"Bloodwine opens with a rapid-fire unison line between Davis and Malaby that quickly devolves into what appears to be complete free play. On further inspection, however, it's revealed to be a complex series of linked passages that ultimately resolve into a dark two-chord modal vamp where Davis' solo gradually builds in intensity, with Opsvik and Jeff Davis in firm but responsive support. The shift from Davis to Malaby in the solo spot is a seemingly amorphous transition that bears the earmark of intention, but equally sports a feeling of pure spontaneity.

In many ways The Slightest Shift feels like it's exploring a relatively narrow space, with one tune appearing to seamlessly move to the next. But in the same way that Norwegian pianist Tord Gustavsen investigates the rhythmic subdivisions within songs of similar tempos, Davis' quartet explores what might appear to be a narrow harmonic context, but in reality is grist for deeper consideration.

The avoidance of conventional form on The Slightest Shift makes it a more challenging listen than the discreetly lyrical Lifespan. Although "35¢ starts with a bebop-ish line, Jeff Davis and Opsvik create a foundation that effortlessly moves between defined groove and a more textural approach that keeps Davis and Malaby in a state of continuous flux. And yet these shifts don't feel incongruous; the transitions are so organic that they make surprising sense. "Jack's Song may begin delicately and with an almost pretty melody, but it remains abstract, with time becoming increasingly fluid as Malaby enters and works inside and outside of Davis' gently melodic support.

The Slightest Shift is aptly titled—it shows just how the smallest movement can drive this quartet in a new direction. But more importantly, it's a release that reflects the leader's considerable stylistic growth as a performer and composer, strongly delivering on the promises made with Lifespan.

Track Listing: Bloodwine; And Then I Said...; Once; 35

Personnel: Kris Davis: piano; Tony Malaby: tenor saxophone; Eivind Opsvik: bass; Jeff Davis: drums.

Title: The Slightest Shift | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Fresh Sound New Talent

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.

Multiple Reviews
Album Reviews
Live Reviews
Album Reviews
Multiple Reviews
Album Reviews
Read more articles
Duopoly

Duopoly

Pyroclastic Records
2016

buy
Save Your Breath

Save Your Breath

Clean Feed Records
2015

buy
Massive Threads

Massive Threads

Thirsty Ear Recordings
2013

buy
Capricorn Climber

Capricorn Climber

Clean Feed Records
2013

buy
 

Aeriol Piano

Clean Feed Records
2012

buy
 

Aeriol Piano

Clean Feed
2011

buy

Related Articles

Read Day to Day Album Reviews
Day to Day
By Paul Naser
May 24, 2019
Read Theia Album Reviews
Theia
By Jim Worsley
May 24, 2019
Read Ain't Nothing But a Cyber Coup & You Album Reviews
Ain't Nothing But a Cyber Coup & You
By Dan McClenaghan
May 24, 2019
Read Nexus Album Reviews
Nexus
By Jakob Baekgaard
May 23, 2019
Read The Second Coming Album Reviews
The Second Coming
By Daniel Barbiero
May 23, 2019
Read Luminária Album Reviews
Luminária
By John Sharpe
May 23, 2019