Info

A look inside The Jazz Gallery

Search results for kris davis

Kris Davis & Julian Lage. Photos courtesy of the artists.

Pianist Kris Davis and guitarist Julian Lage are two hard-to-pin-down musicians. Davis’ and Lage’s individual projects over the years, have engaged a huge range of personalities. For Davis, that includes Terri Lyne Carrington, Craig Taborn, Ingrid Laubrock, and Mary Halvorson; while for Lage, that includes Nels Cline, Eric Harland, Nicole Henry and Fred Hersch. Ahead of their duo hit at The Jazz Gallery this Wednesday and Thursday, they discuss the merits of judgment, cooperative exploration and those persistent playback scaries. 

The Jazz Gallery: Musicians are always engaging in conversation, bandstand dialogue, etc. Both of you obviously are very receptive conscious listeners. Kris, to me there’s something about your playing that feels like a very close to literal translation of the idea of conversation, almost a voice speaking. In what ways, if any, do you feel like there’s a connection between your actual speech patterns and your phrasing choices or broad musical choices? 

Kris Davis: I guess what I would say is that I’m innately a shy person and some times it’s hard for me to come up with things to say. So when I’m playing music, it’s kind of the opposite. I feel completely free to generate material and express myself. And I think that’s really how I express myself in general. 

TJG: When you’re playing, do you feel as though you’re not going to be judge for what you’re saying musically in the way that you might be judged for what you say verbally? 

KD: I’m from the school of “There are no mistakes.” It hasn’t always been that way but, at this point, anything I come across, if I think it’s not sounding that exciting or I’m not happy with my choice, sometimes I’ll just stick with it and see where I can take it. Things that might seem dissonant or, I don’t know, things that other people might consider a mistake or a bad sound, to me, I try to come from a place of loving all sound and just rolling with that and going with it. 

TJG: That concept relates directly to the practice of reserving self-judgment. Julian, over the course of your career as an artist, have you transitioned into that headspace of being far less critical of yourself than maybe when you began playing? 

Julian Lage: That’s a good question. I suppose in certain respects, the stakes seem a little clearer now than maybe they did when I was younger, as far as what’s really at risk, what’s really at stake if I don’t play exactly as I had hoped or it doesn’t go the way I’d wished it would. 

KD: Yeah, I understand that sentiment. 

JL: As far as critique and judgment, I’m very much aligned with Kris in that respect. I embrace critique as kind of a dramatic subtext. Maybe a player is going about their business and then you hear something happen that you maybe think, “Ooh, that’s awkward,” and then you hear how they reconcile it. I would say it’s like that. It’s very dramatically interesting. And it’s not divorced from judgment per se; it’s just the relationship to judgment is not stifled. I’m pretty blunt. If I play something that I feel is not going well, I’ll say, “That sucked. Cool.” And then if it’s killing, there’s something happening and I might say, “Well that was amazing.” I’ll feel empowered to say, “Did you hear that? I’ve never heard a guitar do that. It’s amazing.” I don’t take any credit for it, but I do think amazing things happen and it’s fun to rejoice. 

(more…)

Photos courtesy of the artists.

On Thursday, November 15, the next edition of The Jazz Gallery Mentoring Series kicks off at The National Jazz Museum in Harlem. This edition features pianist Kris Davis mentoring saxophonist David Leon. Throughout November, the pair will play in four different configurations, from duo to quartet. The ensembles will feature many of Davis’s regular collaborators, including drummers Tom Rainey and Tomas Fujiwara, saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, and bassist Michael Formanek.

Like Davis, Leon is an improviser of enthusiastic versatility and catholic taste. He leads his own post-bop quartet, performs with the collaborative trio Sound Underground, and frequently convenes groups for free improvisation. A native of Miami, Florida, and a graduate of the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music, Leon has won an ASCAP Herb Alpert Award for jazz composition and performed at the 2017 Newport Jazz Festival. Sound Underground has just released their third album as a group, which you can check out below.
(more…)

Kris Davis and Ingrid Laubrock. Photo by Peter Gannushkin.

This Saturday, The Jazz Gallery welcomes saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and pianist Kris Davis back to our stage for two sets of new music. Laubrock and Davis have been close collaborators for many years, playing in each other’s projects—Laubrock’s Anti-House and Davis’s Capricorn Climber—as well as co-led groups like Paradoxical Frog. Despite this regular collaboration, the pair have played as a duo relatively infrequently before now. This show at the Gallery is the beginning of a new duo project that Laubrock and Davis will record this fall.

It is rare to find musicians of such sensitive interplay and instinct for risky exploration—this performance is not to be missed. Before coming out to the Gallery, check out Laubrock and Davis performing Laubrock’s work at the 2017 Moers Festival with a host of other acclaimed improvisers and the EOS Chamber Orchestra Cologne.

(more…)

Photo by Peter Gannushkin, courtesy of the artist

Photo by Peter Gannushkin, courtesy of the artist

Pianist and composer Kris Davis is a strong and unique presence on the New York jazz scene, and her projects have run the gamut from solo piano to large ensembles with organ and a clarinet quartet. You can check out the archives of Jazz Speaks to see more about her work with this particular venue over the years.

Davis’s latest album Duopoly, the first release on her own label, Pyroclastic Records, is a series of duets with musicians including Bill Frisell, Craig Taiborn, and Marcus Gilmore. Just a few days ago, Duopoly made it on The New York Times’ Best Albums of 2016 list. On Friday and Saturday this weekend, Kris will be playing at the Jazz Gallery with Eric McPherson (drums) and Stephan Crump (bass). We caught up with Kris on the phone, and talked about the ever-changing concept of the jazz piano trio and what happens when a prepared piano is added to the mix.

The Jazz Gallery: In discussing Duopoly, you mentioned that you organized the order to allow for these “phantom duets” to rise, between any two neighboring duo partners. Sometime with your work with prepared piano, it feels like the core identity of the piano is being amplified. I was wondering if that idea, of a sort of “phantom piano”, resonated with you, when you’re doing solo work?

Kris Davis: I don’t know if the “phantom” relationship is really there. Nice try, though!

TJG: Thanks! It’ll stay there for me. I am wondering what you would respond to that.

KD: I mean, yeah, it’s like having access to a secondary instrument, a percussive instrument. A piano is percussive anyway, but just having the preparations there makes it a sort of matching texture to the drums and allows it to interweave in between what’s going on with the drums. For me, especially with this group that we’re playing with on the weekend, that’s something that I’m interested in exploring more. Sometimes prepared piano gets lost, especially with drums, so it’s really nice that Eric is so sensitive about that, and it’s easy to try and explore actual pulse and the relationship between the two instruments with him. That’s why I’m excited to play with this group. It’s sort of a unique situation, especially as a piano trio.

TJG: How would you describe the uniqueness of this trio as opposed to other trios you’ve played with in the past?

KD: Well, we’re improvising. That in and if itself is not anything new, but we’re not playing compositions, or we’ll make them up on the spot. In the past when I’ve used piano preparation with other groups, I use it more as a textural effect. In this group it’s more about the actual interplay of rhythm between the prepared piano and percussion that’s going on, and also with Stephan, who plays more groove-based vamps and pulses. So this group is much more rooted in one pulse, whereas other groups that I play with, there are sort of multiple levels of things going on. Here, with the preparations, the piano creates a textural, rhythmic background. And then outside of that it can also be used as a soloist, as something that creates texture, and also like a singing voice. These are some of the images that come to mind, and that’s how I approach playing. The piano is more of an orchestral instrument for me than the traditional jazz piano approach – comping in the left hand and soloing in the right.

TJG: If the function of the piano changes in a setting like a trio, which is so set in our imagination, how do the other two band members work out within that dynamic?

KD: Usually, or in the jazz piano tradition, the piano is sort of the lead role and the bass and the drums are accompanying. That’s not necessarily true for this group. We’re equal voices. The piano can be behind everything, and the drums and bass can be at the forefront. And they do that often, maybe more so than what people are used to. The preparation of the piano sort of holds that back, and allows the piano to be underneath what’s going on with the bass and the drums. So they really take a leading role along with the piano, and sometimes more than the piano.

(more…)

Photo by Peter Gannushkin, http://downtownmusic.net

Photo by Peter Gannushkin, http://downtownmusic.net

This Friday, June 3rd, The Jazz Gallery is proud to welcome pianist Kris Davis and her band Capricorn Climber to our stage for two sets. The group is made up of many of Davis’s longtime musical partners, each of whom is an adventurous band leader in his or her own right—saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, violist Mat Maneri, bassist Trevor Dunn, and drummer Tom Rainey.

Before coming out to the Gallery for these two exploratory sets, check out Jazz Speaks’ interview with Davis from last spring, and one of the standout tracks from the group’s eponymous album, “Pass the Magic Hat,” a track that Nate Chinen of the New York Times described as “…an engrossing lesson in ensemble flux, carried out with finesse.”

(more…)