Newport Jazz Fest Countdown: Kris Davis

I used to be fascinated with Anthony Davis’ solo work. Lady of the Mirrors and Past Lives made it seem that the pianist was letting you know exactly what was on his mind at every second during the performance. Kris Davis does something similar, perhaps why many jazz fans have been so smitten with her work for the last few years. Aeriol Piano and Massive Threads are records that capture the kind of focus improvisers need to have in order to compellingly ramble wherever their muse takes them. The Brooklyn-based pianist is one of those artists whose muse demands your full attention, and rewards that dedication with a version of beauty that you just might not have heard before. I’ve been smitten with “A Different Kind of Sleep” from Aeriol Piano (Clean Feed) for a year or so now. You can call it a ballad of sorts; it moves slowly and uses few notes, sketching a mood that sometimes seems both forlorn and fragile – there’s a dreaminess at play. She’s certainly attracted to animation, as well. The drummed clusters that are part of her improvisations arrive with an authoritative vigor. The secret weapon is touch. All the maneuvers are deeply fluid in Davis’ music. When you see her solo in the Storyville room at Fort Adams, sit close. It’s intriguing to watch her bring those inner thoughts to the keyboard.

Newport Jazz Fest

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