By Ken Waxman
The year just ending marked one important milestone in musical history. The first so-called jazz record was issued in 1917 by the Original Dixieland Jass Band (ODJB). Obviously that musical designation, which in its century of existence has gone through as many permutations and retrenchments as so-called classical music has in many centuries, is far different then the ODJB’s primitive efforts. But jazz/improvised music continues to evolve, buttressed by new voices. Here is a group of youngish improvisers who will likely still be contributing to the shape of jazz during its 125th anniversary – and probably for years afterwards.
First is Vancouver-born, Brooklyn-based pianist Kris Davis, 37, whose presence on advanced jazz sessions over the past half-decade or so has become almost as ubiquitous as Lennon-McCartney tunes at retro-60s parties. Sing Me Some Cry (Clean Feed CF 428 CD cleanfeed-records.com) finds the Canadian pianist in a combo led by bassist Eric Revis, featuring tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Ken Vandermark and drummer Chad Taylor. Although each of the other players has extensive experience, there are points at which Davis dominates. Good Company, for instance, which begins with a J. Arthur Rank-like gong resonation from Taylor’s cymbals and reed asides in brief Morse Code-like dashes, retains its tension from the pianist’s kinetic pressure, with the saxophonist’s peek-a-boo contributions hardening into pressurized honks that unroll in tandem with keyboard tinkling. Obliogo features a middle section where high-frequency piano notes slice kinetically through saxophone snorts and string elaboration from Revis, but maintain the composition’s careful shape. Instructively Rye Eclipse, the one Davis composition, is multi-sequenced and more complex. Mixing Revis’ sliding bass notes with stopped piano keys, Vandermark’s sheets of sounds become staccato just as the piano playing becomes more percussive. The result shapes reed overblowing, string reverberations and complex drum beats into a groove of storytelling and solid forward motion.