The New York City Jazz Record – Octopus – John Sharpe

Pianist Kris Davis’ 2015 self-released Duopoly CD/DVD set paired her with eight first-time partners and generated several ongoing collaborations. But while Davis has also toured with pianist Angelica Sanchez and drummer Billy Drummond as a consequence, it is the chemistry with fellow pianist Craig Taborn that has resulted in the first issued documentation of these extended encounters. It’s an eye-catching combination as both are among the most in-demand practitioners on the scene. Selected from three different fall 2016 concerts, the program encompasses five originals as well as two covers.
Entitled Octopus to reflect some concertgoers’ perception that the pair functioned as a single multi-limbed entity, there are times when at least three minds seem to be at work. One such juncture comes during the opening “Interruptions One”, when Taborn’s grounding chording anchors simultaneous independent sparkling runs from each of the principals. That precedes a simply dazzling shimmer of clipped and rolling notes and a rich tapestry of ringing overtones. While the challenge for two players on the same instrument is often to stay out of each other’s way, the feel here is of a meeting of minds in which the instrumentation is irrelevant.
The only thing that separates them is Davis’ occasional singular use of preparations and insistent Morse code repetitions and Taborn’s characteristic groove figures, which surface in slow motion towards the end of that first cut. But elsewhere, like “Interruptions Three”, they pass rhythmic phrases back and forth between them almost quicker than the ear can register. Fireworks erupt on Davis’ “Chatterbox” as sweeping staccato attacks and pealing tremolos jostle with intricate unisons. A chiming melody stands in sharp relief amid the lapping pianistic waves on “Sing Me Softly Of The Blues/Interruptions Two”, where fleeting blues inflections apart, they dress up the Carla Bley tune as if trying to smuggle it through customs. But there’s no disguising the glorious lilt of Sun Ra’s “Love In Outer Space”, even though Davis hits a repeated note like she’s hammering down a particularly stubborn nail during the warmly enveloping conclusion to a terrific set.

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