Kris Davis & Craig Taborn | Constellation | Jazz | Chicago Reader
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click to enlarge Craig Taborn and Kris Davis

Craig Taborn and Kris Davis

Mimi Chakarova

Kris Davis & Craig Taborn 

When: Wed., Oct. 5, 8:30 p.m. 2016
Price: $20, $15 in advance
Over the last decade or so pianist Kris Davis has quietly but steadily established herself as one of jazz’s most versatile and mercurial musicians. A series of solo and trio albums have firmly established her predilection for lyric ambiguity—she composes pieces with beguiling harmonies and dark melodic shapes that are elegant and tender yet deeply pensive. She’s also organized large groups that showcase her use of creative timbres, as heard on last year’s striking octet album Save Your Breath (Clean Feed), where Davis balances four clarinetists with a rhythm section that also features organist Gary Versace, her own piano lines driven by Jim Black’s drumming. She reveals another side of her artistry on the ambitious new Duopoly (Pyroclastic), where she engages with eight of today’s strongest musicians—none of whom she’s previously recorded with—in a pair of duo performances that feature both composition and free improvisation. The results are often surprising: She inspires guitarist Bill Frisell to take on a trudging obliqueness on “Prairie Eyes,” her percussive, gamelan-like initial tones summoning dark clouds of sound before he pivots toward a more typical Americana twang. On fellow pianist Angelica Sanchez’s beautiful “Beneath the Leaves,” a model of dazzling counterpoint, the two lay down a hurtling, halting four-handed gem. The record’s other participants include heavyweights like guitarist Julian Lage, drummers Billy Drummond and Marcus Gilmore, and reedists Tim Berne and Don Byron, but some of the best moments come when Davis pairs with pianist Craig Taborn, who joins her on this tour in support of the album, blurring the lines between composition and improvisation more explicitly than any of her other dynamic duos.
— Peter Margasak

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