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Grief, poetry fuels Caroline Davis’ surprise new album

In the weeks after her father’s death in the winter of 2019, saxophonist Caroline Davis found comfort in the well-stocked library at MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire.

During her time at the composer at the senior artists retreat, she encapsulated her grief in the seed of a series of adventurous new tunes, while often taking breaks to read.” a lot of good books by poets used to live there,” she said in a recent conversation from her home in Brooklyn.

Several poems she encountered joined her creative stream and ended up being the inspiration for the music on her recent album “Portals Volume 1: Mourning” (Sunnyside). An innovative chamber jazz project that combines a string quartet with her jazz quintet, the album includes several spoken passages, centered on a verse by Omar Khayyam that was once one of her favorite songs. of her father.

“I am reading poetry my father read when I was young, and writing my own minimalist phrases and verses for this album and the next,” said Davis, three concerts at the Mitchell Community Center. Park is produced by Mark Weiss’ Earthwise (the band also performs Sunday afternoon at the well-curated Chez Hanny house concert series in San Francisco).

The music she creates for the group is elliptical and often destabilizing, with rapid tempo changes, meandering melodies, and indistinct harmonies evoking invisible power. “The portal,” she said, “is all about connecting to other worlds.”

“I’m reconstructing some pieces from the record for these shows, but I’m writing new music and taking from previous records to incorporate these ideas.”

A rising force in the New York jazz scene in recent years, Davis has collaborated with some of jazz’s most celebrated artists, including the late music artist and NEA Jazz Master Lee Konitz. , pianist Angelica Sanchez, guitarist Miles Okazaki, drummer Matt Wilson, and singer Thana Alexa. She has released several popular albums under her own name and the project “Portals” features a strong team of improv artists.

The quartet she brought to the Bay Area included drummer Allan Mednard, bassist Chris Tordini and pianist Julian Shore, who first met Davis as a teenager while she was teaching at the Litchfield Jazz Camp. Shore found that Davis’ mix of detailed, well-composed passages and form-based improvisation presented an inspiring challenge.

“Caroline writes some of the hardest music I’ve played, in that her sense of rhythm, form, and harmony is so sophisticated and so influential,” says Shore. “It’s really hard to navigate, but also very organic and logical. What makes it different is that she leaves a lot of room for soloing across forms. “

Born to an English father and a Swedish mother who met at university in upstate New York, Davis spent his childhood in Singapore. When her parents split, she settled with her mother in Atlanta and soon found inspiration amid the city’s burgeoning and intertwined gospel and R&B music scene.

By high school, she and her mother moved to North Dallas, and an inspiring summer break at Litchfield Jazz Camp rekindled her love of improvisation. Music wasn’t her only passion, and when she enrolled in a doctoral program in music and cognitive science at Northwestern, she was determined to keep playing.

With the rigorous course load, she didn’t have much time to practice, “so I focused on more avant-garde situations, which is a really great way to develop an improvisational improvisation. mandarin,” she said. “I met a lot of great musicians, like Von Freeman, Fred Anderson and Phil Cohran,” said a trumpeter who played and recorded with Sun Ra from 1959-61 and helped form the famous black avant-garde group. of Chicago, Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM).

https://www.mercurynews.com/2022/01/25/grieving-poetry-fuel-caroline-davis-surprising-new-album/ Grief, poetry fuels Caroline Davis’ surprise new album

Huynh Nguyen

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