Friday, October 3rd, 2008 ... 3:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. ... KZSU, 90.1 FM

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Kris Davis -- Rye Eclipse (Fresh Sound New Talent, 2008) Source: Fresh Sound New Talent

I find I'm having trouble writing about the latest Kris Davis CD. It's good, and it's free jazz, but saying that alone doesn't do it justice. It's different, and it's clearly an evolutionary step and a gutsy one, for a pianist whose quartet started out with a more conventional sound.

The excellent Free Jazz blog has noted Davis' progression into more abstract musical forms. Her quartet, formed in 2004, includes Tony Malaby on saxophone, who's not exactly dinner-jazz material himself, but the debut Lifeline CD stuck to a comforting kind of sound, with plenty of towering piano and sax work, but an overall quilted feel that goes over well with jazz-club audiences. Have a listen here, on Davis' Web page.

The Slightest Shift pushed the limits into some very interesting open-ended improvising, and Rye Eclipse completes the ascent into full-on madness. I love it. Source:

It's not as if the music has lost structure. "Black Tunnel" uses a dramatic composed line that appears between episodes of light, fast playing, where Davis does toneful morse-code pecking on the piano. The piece ends with Davis hammering one tiny, tiny, quiet piano note, a humorous touch that sums up the album's attitude.

Then, you've got the title track, which opens the album with an abrasive, pre-arranged clamour, an elephant stomp that lets you know you're not in for an evening of standards. The piece's guts are built of robotic piano rhythms that, after a quiet segment, return to sit underneath a gutteral Malaby solo.

Other tracks, like "Minnow Bucket," get into full-on group improvising but without slipping into that stark, academic atmosphere that European improv crafts so well. It's still jazz, and even club-friendly jazz (relatively speaking).

The wild abandon and velvety jazz touches make for a coarse mix sometimes, but that's what I like about this album. It's not a carbon copy of '60s free jazz, it's not your usual improv session, and it has a voice distinguishable from European free jazz. Davis has crafted something fresh and new here.

Davis' next act might be a full-on improvisational quartet; it's an equal-billing affair called RIDD, for its four members' last names. Drummer Jeff Davis is in that one, too, as is Reuben Radding, a bassist whose free-improv output can be sampled generously on his Web page. I'll be keeping an eye out for their upcoming CD on Clean Feed.

Horizontal lines denote microphone breaks.

Dan Plonsey -- [Sections P,Q] -- Wise King Taken by the Foolish One (Unlimited Sedition, 2005)

* Joel Harrison -- "We Have All Been Victims of a Broken Promise" -- The Wheel (Innova, 2008) * Kris Davis -- "Wayne Oskar" -- Rye Eclipse (Fresh Sound New Talent, 2008) * Graham Reynolds and the Golden Arm Trio -- "The Miracle Machine" -- Cult of Color (Shamrock, 2008)
* Wadada Leo Smith -- "Tabligh" -- Tabligh (Cuneiform, 2008)
-- 4:00 p.m. --

* Pulga -- "Fuck the Satellites" -- Pulga Loves You (Fire Museum, 2007)

* Eri Yamamoto -- "Conversation" -- Duologue (AUM Fidelity, 2008)

* Tim Adams -- "Discovery (Dancing)" -- Images of My Spirit (Teeko, 2007) * Bloom Project -- "To Seed" -- Prismatic Season (Edgetone, 2008) Scott Amendola Band -- "Believe" -- Believe (Cryptogramophone, 2005)

* Phil Minton, Yagihashi Tsukasa, Sato Yukie, Higo Hiroshi -- [untitled track 5, excerpt] -- Nippara/Tokyo (Austin, 2008)

Miya Masaoka and Joan Jenreneaud -- "For Birds, Planes, and Cellos" [excerpt] -- For Birds, Planes, and Cellos (Solitary B, 2005) * The Giants of Gender -- "As Non Living" -- The Giants of Gender (Edgetone, 2008)

Elliott Levin/Tyrone Hill Quartet -- "Relativity" -- CIMPosium, Vol. 7 (CIMP, 2000)

* Annbjorg Lien -- "Sula Mountain" -- Waltz With Me (Compass, 2008) * Noertker's Moxie -- "Harlequin's Carnival" -- Sketches of Catalonia, Vol. 2: Suite for Miro (Edgetone, 2007) * Bill Frisell -- "Lazy Robinson" -- History, Mystery (Nonesuch, 2008) Source:

* Dan Burke and Thomas DiMuzio -- "Infecticide" -- Upcoming Events (No Fun, 2008)

Bubble and Squeak -- "Muddy Razors for Puppy Dog Eyes" -- Bubble and Squeak (Limited Sedition, 1998)

Emergency String Quartet -- "Hill 5" -- Hill Music (Spring Garden, 2001)

The Left Coast Improv Group -- "Shore Thing" -- The Left Coast Improv Group (Jimzeen, 2001) Charlotte Hug -- "Delirium" [excerpt] -- Neuland (Emanem, 2003)
* Kris Davis -- "Rye Eclipse" -- Rye Eclipse (Fresh Sound New Talent, 2008)

* = Item in KZSU rotation
! = Pop anomaly
? = Item not in KZSU library

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-- Bay Area free/improv music calendar: