Friday, March 08, 2013

Another bunch of new shiny silver discs

On Kris Davis' website, there's a quote from fellow ivory tickler Jason Moran hailing her as "an honorary descendant of Cecil Taylor," and indeed, her 2011 solo disc Aeriol Piano has the heft and gravitas of one of CT's solo exorcisms. Her latest Clean Feed release, Capricorn Climber, is one of the few albums in recent memory to withstand comparisons with Taylor's epochal '60s band albums for Blue Note. On it, she leads a forward-looking quintet that includes violist Mat Maneri, saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock (her bandmate in the trio Paradoxical Frog), bassist Trevor Dunn, and percussionist Tom Rainey. Together, they create a program of music that's dark, abstract, moody, and mysterious. Like Taylor, Davis' playing is such a force of nature -- roiling like a raging river here, placid as a quiet lake there -- that it's easy to overlook her virtuosity.

Also on Clean Feed is Hammered, on which drummer Ches Smith leads an all-star, bassless quintet (These Arches) that includes Tim Berne and Tony Malaby on reeds, Mary Halverson on guitar, and Andrea Parkins on accordion and electronics. Together, they occupy a space where free improvisation, rock, and contemporary classical music intersect. The pieces Smith composes work off of hypnotic vamps and haunting melodies, and the net effect is not unlike King Crimson running amuck in Lower Manhattan ca. 1980.

From closer to home come a couple of entries in 2013's RPM Challenge, in which musicians create ten songs or 35 minutes worth of music during the month of February. On Inside the Box: Solo Improvisations on Cigarbox Guitar, Kavin Allenson spins webs of bluesy slide extemporization, sounding like a belladonna-dazed Robert Johnson stumbling his way out of a foggy swamp. It's back porch picking from the spaciest back porch you can imagine. Besides having effectively supplanted your humble chronicler o' events in Hentai Improvising Orchestra, Mark Kitchens is an architect, visual artist, instrument builder, and multifaceted muso. On I Kill You Architecture, his RPM entry under his derwooka pseudonym, he uses silence, space, and dynamic variation to create a series of evocative moods with only the most limited of tonal materials -- proof positive, as if any more were needed, that often, harmonic movement is superfluous.

Kitchens also drums in Stone Machine Electric, a doom metal outfit fronted by guitarist-singer William "Dub" Irwin. On their self-titled sophomore CD, they lay down a nice line in detuned Sturm und Drang, Kitchens' thumping tubs locking in with Irwin's chordal thunder, shadowed by guest bassist Kent Stump's rumbling unisons. (Stump, from Wo Fat, has since been replaced by Mark Cook.) Besides laying down the heavy rifferama, Irwin also wrestles lead lines that shudder like a soul in terror from his axe. If heavy makes you happy, SME could be just your meat.


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