Kris Davis

Doris Duke Impact Award, 2015

New York, NY

Kris Davis is known for her ability to interweave jazz standards with equally experimental improvisations. A prolific composer and collaborator, she has released eight recordings as a leader featuring solo piano, trio, quartet, and quintet configurations. Her albums have landed on numerous year-end “best of” lists, showcasing an aesthetic that encompasses, but is not limited by, prepared piano, minimalism, jazz avant-garde, and the improvised music scene. Notable collaborative projects include Paradoxical Frog (Clean Feed Records, 2009), with Tyshawn Sorey , saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, and saxophonist Tony Malaby’s Novela (Clean Feed, 2011), which she arranged. She is on the faculty of NYC’s School for Improvisational Music and has received commissions from The Shifting Foundation and The Jazz Gallery. Her ninth album, Infrasound (Clean Feed, 2015), features her octet with four bass clarinets, organ, piano, guitar and drums, and it is scheduled for release in May.

  • Photo Credit: Mimi Chakarova
  • Kris Davis- “Ten Exorcists,” Massive Threads (Thirsty Ear, 2013):
    “Ten Exorcists,” Massive Threads (Thirsty Ear, 2013)
  • Kris Davis- “Pass the Magic Hat,” Capricorn Climber (Clean Feed, 2012):
    “Pass the Magic Hat,” Capricorn Climber (Clean Feed, 2012)
  • Iron Spider (2010)
  • Photo Credit: Peter Gannushkin
  • Photo Credit: Peter Gannushkin

Suppose you just met someone who didn't know your work. What project from the past 10 years would you direct them to as an entry point to you and your work, and why?

Two ideas that can be heard throughout my nine records as a leader are the interweaving of written material with improvisation and the cross-pollination of jazz language with modern classical techniques. My 2012 quintet project, Capricorn Climber (Cleanfeed, 2012), employs these concepts and might be an interesting entry point for a listener who is new to my work. The eight compositions on this album offer a variety of moods, from slow spacious collective improvisations fueled by written counterpoint, to featuring soloists on traditional, yet disguised jazz forms. The album also explores the slightly unusual instrumentation of piano, bass, drums, saxophone, and viola, offering a variety of textural soundscapes by dividing the ensemble into different subgroups to create unusual combinations of sounds.