Continuing with my current fascination with the extremes of pano play, here are two works that are sometimes pretty hard on the ear and yet are captivating to listen to. They fall right at my previously described edge, the Matthew Shipp/Lisabeth Salander line.
"Composition 23c" is the second piece and its difference is signaled right away by the opening with a subdued bass solo, followed by some simple and melodic piano. The piece is more soothing with a softer touch and no dissonance. It is still very modern as there is no real sense of a melody; it is more an experimentation with making sounds together either in unison or as supporting players. "Composition 108c/110/69q" is another tune that begins with a very pretty piano part, a bowed basss line and toms underneath. It features the bass in support under the piano and then in response to the piano. It is pleasant to the ear. In the middle of the piece is a riveting pizzicato bass part, and then a very traditional sounding jazz drum solo.
"Composition 69b", the fourth piece, returns to the more harsh sound of the first piece, although it opens with a trio part of subdued chords that gradually merge into a surging set of runs up and down the keyboard. As the piece goes on its dynamics increase, the parts gets sharper and more angular, and eventually the piece begins to sound frantic with hard chordal play, very strong, banging piano chords, and hard drum support. Its not hard to listen to but it is frenetic and pushy. Finally, "Composition 40n/40b" closes the set with the longest piece at twelve minutes, a slow and quiet piece with little piano bursts, a quiet bowed bass, drum colorations, and lots of space. It is very ECMish as it builds from the separated sounds into a more breezy and mellow section with a nice plucked bass over a moving piano that sounds as melodic as anything that came earlier. It almost creates a mainstream jazz feel to round off the CD.
A challenging but ultimately rewarding CD for those who tilt to the far end of the spectrum.
Kris Davis first came to my attention last year with Aeriol Piano (Clean Feed 2012), a stunning set of modernist piano solos. She is back here on Capricorn Climber (Clean Feed 2013) with a quintet: Mat Maneri on viola, Ingrid Laubrock on saxophone, Trevor Dunn on bass, and Tom Rainey on drums. This is music at the edge too as one would expect from this grouping and the label, but again has a great deal of things to offer in terms of fascinating melodies, intersting combinations, and the outstanding sounds particularly of Davis, Laubrock, and Maneri. I do have to note that there are sections that do go a bit far out for me as they involved some odd sounds and combinations.
This is music out of the New Yrok City downtown scene with all the associated images one has of its music. It is a CD of varying extremes: mellow and edgy, free yet structured, flowing and abrasive, quiet and heated. The music at times can be unsettling and full of nervous energy and at other times incredibly peaceful and unhurried. At times the musicians are in in synch and the music is almost chamber-like with the piano, viola and bass play, while at others it is well out there and full of dissonance and arrythmic play.
“Trevor’s Luffa Complex,” is named for Trevor Dunn and I guess his loofa. It starts quietly with the bass opening with a nice moving part, and then a melody is introduced on glockenspiel with a quiet sax part underneath. Gradually the dynamics increase and the sax comes out of the background to introduce Laubrock’s tenor solo. The sound is restrained and mellow at first and then gradually the tempo and heat rises, supported by the increasing complexity of the drum part and strong comping from Davis. The sax sound gets a bit harsher, the notes begin to flurry a lot more, and all the quintet's components get in on the action. A quiet section follows a break and Maneri opens the next section with a meandering viola over some simple piano figures. The quiet of this part once again releases the tension. After a few minutes they are are back in the groove with everyone playing, with much counterpoint and playing against time, play between consonance and dissonance, and building and resolving tensions. Like the previous piece the music runs the gamut from soft to loud, solo to ensemble, and calm to frenetic.
The title cut "Capricorn Climber" fits the same pattern, a quiet opening builds to a crescendo of intersecting parts by all the members, a bit feverish and chaotic. Graually the saxophone and viola emerge with a nice relasing section, which in turn heats up into a finish full of furious sounds, drones, and energetic play.
And so it goes, a CD of great interst and great contrasts. Parts of extreme quiet and beauty, parts of swirling energies and discordance, all in a fascinating stew of modern avant garde jazz.