Consolidating her considerable musical gifts, Canadian-born, New York-based Kris Davis organized a uniquely constituted octet here to premiere or propogate her compositions. Confirming her range, the eight tunes are breezy and animated in spots, while looped around a dense, metal-like core. With an ensemble consisting of Ben Goldberg, Oscar Noriega, Joachim Badenhorst, and Andrew Bishop, all playing different-sized clarinets, with drummer Jim Black and guitarist Nate Radley, plus Gary Versace on organ and Davis on piano, the engendered textures frequently imply many associations, often during the same tune.
“Whirly Swirly,” for instance, despite its fanciful title, is actually a multipart suite. After the rock-influenced lead guitar faces off against metre-less free-jazz drumming, a piano interlude introduces raucous multi-reed vibrations that sweep across juddering organ smears. Before the piece climaxes with a duel between pounding piano and percussion, a stark clarinet line stands out from other reed textures, harmonized in such a way that baroque motifs are evoked. Arranging only for reeds and rhythm doesn’t limit Davis either. A track such as “Jumping Over Your Shadow,” for example, shows how limpid bass-clarinet tones mixed with calliope-like keyboard juddering can put textural flesh and bones on what starts off as a narrow display of solo-clarinet tongue-slapping. On the other hand, “The Ghost of Your Previous Fuckup” is introduced with a sequence of explosive polyphony, until the swivelling theme is revealed. From then on until the concluding organ-piano meld, thematic variations arrive via piano-key clipping, low-pitched alto-clarinet echoes and, finally, clarinet warbles that create a relaxed line, even as the thick bass-clarinet-and-drum groove keeps it grounded.
Davis’ music reflects and conflates both composed and improvised strategies, so demand for more large-scale compositions by her will very likely increase—which she maybe senses, the title of one of this CD’s compositions declaring, “Always Leave Them [Wanting More].”