Kris Davis – Capricorn Climber (CF 268)
The incomparable, Kris Davis returns with more brave and complex patterns on her sixth album, Capricorn Climber. Davis, is part of the new legion on New York musicians that are redefining the scene nationally and globally. A scene composed of such notables as Tom Rainey, Mary Halvorson, Peter Evans, Ches Smith, Tashawn Sorey, Moppa Elliott, Jon Iragbagon et al. But Davis like Halvorson has been one of the major standouts for me over the last few years.
Capricorn Climber provides all you need to know and hear from a talented composer with challenging ideas. “Pass The Magic Hat” is a smooth yet very involved piece. The first steady tempo is lead by some lovely rolling lines from Davis. This is subtly balanced by Rainey and an uncharacteristically calm Laubrock, who sounds bold and romantic. Then all that changes as the piece moves forward and becomes even more reserved and delicate. Maneri dominates with some wonderfully inventive and chaotic notes. Beautiful and surreal.
Davis gives Trevor Dunn a lot of room to roam of course on “Trevor’s Luffa Complex.” The opening solo is superb and illustrates how well developed his craft has become in the last few years (actually he’s been at way longer than that). He sets up some lovely exchanges with Laubrock that then fold nicely into a boiling cascade as Davis and Rainey come blasting in.
“PI is Irrational” flexes back and forth with breaking rhythms and patterns, mainly from Maneri and Rainey, with little slices of improvised notes floating in and out from Davis and Dunn. Laubrock’s arrives towards the end of the number to add a nice linear passage for the closing notes by Dunn.
Maneri really shines in Davis’ pieces, this is evident of the title track where his conversation with Davis is a perfect simpatico. Once the rest of the quintet dive in, the piece becomes a bright wash of sound that levels off calmly but with deep sense of structure.
A new album from Kris Davis always brings real joy to my ears. Capricorn Climber is definitely one of the more developed and intense sessions she’s done so far. And it may take a little time for you digest all its beauty. But you will shortly realize how important Kris Davis has become as musician, composer and influence on a larger scene globally. Highly Recommended. And one of my albums of the year!
Albatre – A Descent Into the Maelstrom (Shh 005)
Albatre is an improvising trio from The Netherlands consisting of Hugo Costa on alto saxophone and electronics, Gonzo Almeida on bass and electronic effects and Philipp Ernsting on drums and electronics. Their music is frenetic and exciting free jazz with splashes of electronics that gives the music a wide palette of sound. Electric bass guitar and pulsating drums combine with snarls of electronics making a dark and ominous sound that is really in your face with blasts or drums between wails of saxophone. The start-stop dynamic they use is particularly effective as a tension building device on “Malestrom.” A spare and haunting theme opens “Aphotic Zone” with the reverberations of the electronics making for a lonely feel to the music. The full band comes through and really ramps things up into overdrive, moving into the following track, “Deep Trench” which is shorn of any ornamental nature and evolves into a pure trio stomp. “Vampyroteuthis Infernalis” has a strong bass and drum foundation that drives the music ever forward and makes for a great launching pad for an absolutely scalding sound. The closing “Albatrossia” breaks with the formula a bit, with Almeida and Ernsting developing a fractured funk groove before Costa enters and leads the group into an overpowering collective improvisation. I found this album to be quite enjoyable and exciting. The group holds nothing back, and fans of The Thing and similar groups should find a lot to enjoy here.
Made to Break – Provoke (CF 273)
Recorded in Lisbon during the 10th anniversary celebration for the Clean Feed record label, this new ensemble consists of Christof Kurzmann on electronics, Devin Hoff on bass, Ken Vandermark on saxophones and Tim Daisy on drums. According to the liner notes, this band would practice “modular improvisation,” which creates sections of varying texture and intensity. Things open well on “Further (For John Cage)” with a strong and exciting full band opening before throttling back dramatically to a slow and abstract middle section/module where lighter than air saxophone wafts over tapping rhythm. Another module towards the end of the performance regains some of the energy, with long peals of saxophone over rolling drums. “Presentation (For Buckminster Fuller)” uses drones and smears of strummed or hammered bass and electronics. They move through this section for quite a long time, before the bass and drums ramp up and Vandermark’s saxophone builds in, developing a more interesting collectively improvised section. The final of the tracks (all run nearly twenty minutes) is “Of The Facts (For Marshall McLuhan)” which once again builds from a slow and tentative beginning to gradually develop intensity with bursts of saxophone, drums and electronic delay. The group shifts down once again to an abstract ominous module before waking up to a strong conclusion. There were parts of this album which were quite good, but overall I felt that the length of the songs worked against it. They spent an interminable amount of time investigating what drummer Bill Bruford called “squeaky-bump” jazz, that is low volume, spacious and abstract improvisation. This was undoubtedly fascinating to the musicians themselves, but I had a hard time concentrating, and thus was excited by the thrilling and compelling areas or up-tempo and free improvisation.