Kris Davis’ Diatom Ribbons – Live At The Village Vanguard is an album that showcases Canadian pianist Kris Davis’ extraordinary talent and her ability to collaborate with various jazz giants. The album features notable musicians such as Terri Lyne Carrington, Julian Lage, Val Jeanty, and Trevor Dunn, blending composed and improvised music to create a seamless jazz experience.
The Making of the Album
The album was recorded during a week-long residency at New York’s Village Vanguard in May 2022. The band lineup consisted of Kris Davis on piano, Terri Lyne Carrington on drums, Julian Lage on guitar, Val Jeanty on turntables/electronics, and Trevor Dunn on basses. The core of the band, minus Lage but including saxophonist Tony Malaby and others, had previously recorded Davis’ album Diatom Ribbons, which was named by The New York Times as a 2019 album of the year. The addition of Lage’s electric guitar fit perfectly with the band’s feel, shifting into blues or even rock territory on occasion.
The twelve-minute opener, “Alice In The Congo,” provides a microcosmic illustration of the nearly 105-minute album. The bass and piano lay down a ‘walking’ line for the first five minutes, while drums, recorded voices, and DJ effects operate around the groove. Short solos by Davis and Lage add melodic ‘flavor’ on top until the full Davis onslaught breaks out.
Gentler pieces such as Davis’ “Nine Hats,” “Brainfeel,” and Geri Allen’s “The Dancer” showcase the musicians’ melodic skills while still exhibiting their keen improvisational abilities. The intricate but spot-on timing of Carrington’s drumming, Dunn’s fluid playing on both electric and acoustic basses, and the sound effects from Jeanty all hold sway throughout the recording.
Comparing Two Versions of “Dolores”
A highlight of the album is the comparison of two different versions of Wayne Shorter’s “Dolores.” The first version features Dunn and Carrington opening up the piece, with Davis and Lage stating the main theme before a piano trio section showcases Davis at her ‘free’ best. The second version swings, driven by Carrington and Dunn’s double bass, while Lage conjures up Montgomery, Christian, et al. An extended solo by Davis leads to the end of a series of performances that the audience audibly appreciated.
Throughout the eleven tracks on the album, Kris Davis allows her fellow bandmates the freedom to express themselves within the framework of the tunes, never dominating the spotlight. Kris Davis’ Diatom Ribbons – Live At The Village Vanguard is a testament to the talents of these musicians and their ability to create captivating, engaging, and dynamic jazz.