Save your Breath
Kris Davis Infrasound
Ben Goldberg bass clarinet, contra alto clarinet, clarinet / Oscar Noriega bass clarinet, clarinet / Joachim Badenhorst bass clarinet, clarinet / Andrew Bishop contrabass clarinet, clarinet / Nate Radley guitar / Gary Versace organ / Jim Black drums / Kris Davis piano, compositions
Infrasound – “a living, breathing animal” – features Ben Goldberg, Oscar Noriega, Andrew Bishop & Joachim Badenhorst on bass clarinets, plus a rhythm section of Davis, Nate Radley, Gary Versace & Jim Black
“Over the past couple of years in New York, one method for deciding where to hear jazz on a given night has been to track down pianist Kris Davis.” — The New York Times
The latest album by pianist-composer Kris Davis – one of the most progressive, prolific figures on New York City’s creative jazz scene – is a showcase for her new octet Infrasound and its mix of jazz intricacy and rock impact. To be released on May 7, 2015, via Clean Feed, Save Your Breath is the sound of “a living, breathing wild animal,” as the composer says. She unveiled Infrasound in a concert at Brooklyn’s Roulette last year, with the music described as “delicious… smoky mystery” by New York City Jazz Record. The unique instrumentation of the group led to its name, with Infrasound being the term for a low-frequency tone that’s felt as much as heard. The virtuoso Infrasound band features four bass clarinetists – Ben Goldberg, Oscar Noriega, Andrew Bishop and Joachim Badenhorst – plus guitarist Nate Radley, accordionist/organist Gary Versace and drummer Jim Black, with the composer on piano. Davis created the music of Infrasound on a commission from The Shifting Foundation, which has previously awarded grants to the likes of John Zorn, Tim Berne, Craig Taborn and Zeena Parkins.
Recorded for maximum impact by rock engineer Ron Saint Germain – veteran of albums by Bad Brains, Sonic Youth and Living Color – Save Your Breath presents six Davis compositions. The album opener is an expanded arrangement of “Union Forever,” a hypnotic, hook-filled piece originally recorded as the title track of the 2013 disc Union by Paradoxical Frog (the composer’s popular trio with Ingrid Laubrock and Tyshawn Sorey). Another album highlight is “Whirly Swirly,” with its stomping, circus-elephant groove and wailing solo by Joachim Badenhorst; the tune was first recorded on Waiting for You to Grow, Davis’s 2014 trio album with bassist John Hébert and drummer Tom Rainey. Save Your Breath also features plenty of ambient atmospherics and ensemble improvisation in new pieces “Jumping Over Your Shadow,” “Always Leave Them (Wanting More),” “The Ghost of Your Previous Fuckup” and the title song, with the album’s mix of various winds including not only bass clarinet and clarinet but also contra-alto clarinet and contra-bass clarinet for extra depth.
About Infrasound and the music of Save Your Breath, Davis says: “In writing these pieces, I was inspired by the individual musicians I chose for this group and the sound of the bands they play in – for instance, the earthy, energized Endangered Blood with Oscar and Jim and the snaky improvisation of Bad Touch with Nate and Gary. And by using the four bass clarinets and organ, I aimed for Infrasound to explore the low end of the spectrum, creating a living, breathing wild animal.”
As for the sonic force of Save Your Breath, Davis says: “I’m thrilled with the sound of this record. The band had two days in the studio with engineering icon Ron Saint Germain, and he spent a full week mixing it with our producer, David Breskin. You can hear the love and attention to detail that went into the production: The warmth of sound, the low-frequency boost, the unique imaging. Ron approached the recording from a rock angle, which helped lend it a hard-hitting energy very different from my other albums.”
Davis’s previous experience with large-ensemble writing includes her extraordinary arrangements for saxophonist-composer Tony Malaby’s nonet project Novela, with the album Novela released by Clean Feed in 2011 and appearing on Best of the Year lists in DownBeat and JazzTimes. In its review of the Novela album, New York City Jazz Record said: “Davis emerges as an orchestrator of tremendous creativity, amplifying the harmonic nuances of Malaby’s pieces, enriching their textures at every turn and multiplying their rhythmic possibilities.”
In the studio for Save Your Breath, following the powerful experience of the Roulette concert, Ben Goldberg – a veteran composer and bandleader in his own right – marveled at Davis’s accomplishment, saying: “Right away, I knew she was onto something really fantastic. As soon as we started rehearsing, I was like, ‘This is a sound.’ It’s such an unusual orchestration with the four bass clarinets. Then the entire concert was, to me, absolutely magical from beginning to end, first note to last. I told Kris afterwards: ‘This is my favorite band in the whole world’.”
Discussing Davis’s method, Goldberg adds: “If you talk to modern composers, a lot of them are reflecting on the goal of incorporating both composed passages and improvisation in their music,” Goldberg adds. “I’d say that this music by Kris is a brilliant example of what can be achieved in that regard. There is just enough meticulously composed material that’s all worked out with the counterpoint and the harmonies, and she uses this to anchor the piece at strategic locations. Then there are other parts that are improvised, but the improvisation is informed by the composed passages around it. So everyone can honestly and sincerely present what they are feeling at the moment, and it works in the context of the larger composition.”
About the mix of composition and improvisation in her work, Davis says: “I like to leave space for players to put their own personalities into the music. Where the guys in Infrasound took this music, the virtuosity and energy they brought to it – it was really exciting to hear and feel.”
Recorded on January 7th and 8th, 2014 at Sear Sound, New York City by Ron Saint Germain assisted by Chris Allen / Mixed by Ron Saint Germain March 2014 at Saint’s Place – Kinnelon, New Jersey / Mastered by Joe Gastwirt at Joe Gastwirt Mastering – Oak Park, California
Produced by David Breskin / Executive production by Pedro Costa/Trem Azul / Design by Travassos
Thanks to the Shifting Foundation for its generous support.