The Slightest Shift
Kris Davis | The Slightest Shift

fresh sound new talent • FSNT 256 • www.krisdavis.net

The compositions of pianist Kris Davis are about suggestion and new possibilities. Things are allowed to happen.

Like in "Bloodwine", where a swift and boppish phrase quickly transforms into an open and stark, modern soundscape. The sky creaks (bowed cymbal) above this slow-moving soundscape in which tenor player Tony Malaby speaks in a fluent and measured voice. Bassist Opsvik contributes deeply affecting ostinatos to various points in this journey which concludes with tenor Malaby and a bowed Opsvik, holding a single note.

With its tender, 'Gospel'-inflected sound, "Jack's Song" is a showcase for Malaby's arpeggiated singing. The tones of bassist Eivind Opsvik are heart-felt and carefully placed, and the compositional approach of drummer Jeff Davis — a near egoless drummer, if I've ever heard one — consists of sensitively supporting, colouring, and punctuating the music's flow.

"Twice Escaped" opens up as a dark, urban, bass and drums duet. When the tenor enters, grainy-toned and clear-headed, the bass grows even more interactive and intoning. The piano steps into this dialogue and solos with full keyboard control and calm. Drummer Davis' snare and cymbal are swift and briskly goading, and when the tenor sax starts to speak in overtones, a thinking piano/drums duet emerges and eventually returns us to the beginning — where a lone piano restates the circular theme and its eccentric, slipping grace note at the end.

"35¢" is like one of Andrew Hill's compositions where thick harmonies and faint Caribbean-sounding melodies echo throughout. Malaby's playing is especially attractive in the mid- to lower registers on this track. Kris Davis' solo is spiraling and singing, but she's also playing compositionally, so she plays like a composer and unfailingly gives the music what it needs.

In the title track — aptly titled, "The Slightest Shift" — the piano and drums restate the theme in freely scrambling gestures. And the tenor urges on the general flow, but when the rhythm section's downward-stepping, repeating line, tips the balance — with just 'the slightest shift' — tenorist Malaby is found to be aligning his phrases with the arresting rhythmic tension created by drummer Davis, bassist Opsvik, and the piano of Kris Davis. Beautiful. Later, a boppish restatement of the theme ends in an abrupt cut-off. I suppose because of some of the intervals, this piece makes me think about Paul Bley.

Kris Davis, so far, reminds me of players like Jon Ballantyne or Glenn Buhr. They're strong soloists (and fellow Canadians) who seem to prefer to sit in the driver's seat and sustain a composition's energy. In this recording, solos — as such — are mostly taken by tenor player Tony Malaby, who also plays the themes, phrases, and sections in Kris Davis's suggestive and highly generative compositions. And all praise to the tonal creativity of Eivind Opsvik on acoustic bass, and Jeff Davis on drums.

This CD contains accomplished, and moving, creative music.

by David Fujino May 2007

The musicians
Kris Davis – piano/compositions
Tony Malaby – tenor saxophone
Eivind Opsvik – bass
Jeff Davis – drums
We welcome your comments and feedback
David Fujino
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