The New York City Jazz Record review by John Sharpe

Kris Davis – Aeriol Piano (CF 233)
A solo album has become a necessary rite of passage for any improvising pianist. Kris Davis exploits the possibilities on Aeriol Piano, her solo debut. Davis has come a long way since her early sides on Fresh Sound-New Talent until now it seems a threshold has been crossed by appearances with stars like Ingrid Laubrock, Tyshawn Sorey and Tony Malaby. Over eight cuts on this well-recorded studio date, Davis moves between the written and the extemporized, with little overt melody or rhythm to distinguish between them. Jerome Kern’s “All The Things You Are”, the one standard on the set, is given a meditative treatment as oblique as that meted out to her originals. It starts distantly, with the tune barely detectable amid the glittering glissandos, becoming more warmly proximate only at the very end. Having studied extended techniques with pianist Benoît Delbecq, unconventional touches are a particular pleasure of her oeuvre. Though usually integrated into her playing, “Saturn Return” provides a lengthy workout for prepared piano. Starting with gamelan sonorities, chiming and percussive, Davis explores the polarity between strings and percussion, contrasting varied attacks and prancing figures in a spacious exposition. That alternation of different treatments informs many of the pieces here, conjuring form even where it is not predetermined. On “Beam The Eyes”, swaggering forays into the bass register are bookended by crystalline runs and a conclusion of ringing repetition. Slow tempos predominate. “A Different Kind Of Sleep” is limpidly Satie-esque, with subtle preparations to color her phrases while measured resonance dominates “The Last Time” after the initial animated flurries. “Good Citizen” bucks the trend with a stiffly rhythmic articulation and flailing density, but she has created an intriguing and engaging performance whatever speed you take it.

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