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Kris Davis Makes DownBeat Cover with New Village Vanguard Classic

23/09/2023

Kris Davis Makes DownBeat Cover with New Village Vanguard Classic With her band, Diatom Ribbons, the acclaimed jazz pianist makes a live record worthy of the Vanguards lofty legacy-and a major cover story.

By

John Mirisola

September 21, 2023

Kris Davis at the Village Vanguard

Image by Caroline Mardok

In the space of a few weeks, Kris Davis has released a landmark live album, Diatom Ribbons Live at the Village Vanguard, and hit newsstands on the cover of DownBeat with a major feature in the magazine. Its a pair of achievements Davis, who also serves as associate program director of creative development for Berklees Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice, doesnt take lightly.

Its a real honor to play and record at the historic Village Vanguard, thats for sure, says Davis, who has experienced decades worth of the venues history for herself. I lived in New York for 20 years, and I saw so many incredible concerts at the club, from Paul Motian to Geri Allen, she recalls, and its humbling to know that I had the chance to share the same stage with so many iconic jazz artists.

Diatom Ribbons at the Village Vanguard. Left to right: Val Jeanty, Julian Lage, Trevor Dunn, Terri Lyne Carrington, Kris Davis.

Image by Caroline Mardok

Davis took the Vanguard stage with her band, Diatom Ribbons, a stylistically diverse set of players whose varied approaches and backgrounds is a major asset for the ensemble. We have Val Jeanty [on turntables and electronics], whos from Haiti, whos coming from this Afrofuturism approach to improvisation, she says. Myself [on piano, prepared piano, and synth], whos more into free improvisation and bringing in contemporary classical influences; Julian Lage '08 [on electric guitar], who is a wonderful jazz player, but is also very knowledgeable and experienced in playing country and bluegrass music; Trevor Dunn [on electric and double bass], who plays in a metal band [called] Mr. Bungle; and of course Terri [Lyne Carrington, on drums], whos done everything.

The resulting double album, honed in 12 performances over six nights, is a thrilling roller-coaster of evolving grooves and sonic textures, encompassing everything from turntable-manipulated spoken word passages to multiple reworkings of Wayne Shorters Dolores.

The project has rightly garnered major critical praise, including the cover story in Septembers DownBeat. (Davis was also voted Pianist of the Year in the magazines 2022 Critics Poll.)

For sure, many pianists, ranging from such towering icons as Bill Evans, Bobby Timmons, McCoy Tyner, and Thelonious Monk to such eminent modernists as Brad Mehldau, Uri Caine, Jason Moran, Chucho Vald s, Geri Allen, and Junko Onishi have documented their stints at the Village Vanguard, writes DownBeats John Murph. And some of those albums have become part of the pantheon of best live albums in jazz history. Davis adds her scintillating new double-disc . . . to that distinguished legacy.

To be on the cover of Downbeat is incredible, of course, Davis says. I really want people to hear this album, because I think its one of my most creative and accessible albums, with some beautiful group interaction, and hopefully all the wonderful press the album has received will translate into people wanting to check out the music.

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