Kris Davis Quintet

When: Sun., Feb. 17, 10 p.m. 2013

Over the past few years Canadian pianist Kris Davis has become one of the most valuable players in New York’s progressive jazz and improvised-music scene. Not for nothing did Jason Moran put her on his year-end list for Artforum, writing, “Her range is impeccable: she tackles prepared piano, minimalism, and jazz standards, all under one umbrella.” And none of her recordings makes for a bigger umbrella than the forthcoming quintet album Capricorn Climber (Clean Feed). Davis, saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, drummer Tom Rainey, bassist Trevor Dunn, and violist Mat Maneri first played together as an improvising combo, but the pianist was so pleased with the results that she decided to write music for the group. Davis’s imaginative charts not only leave plenty of space for spontaneous expression, they also make it tricky to tell what’s composed and what isn’t. Across the collection there’s a surging, shape-shifting feel, so that the music seems to expand and contract more than leap and swing; Maneri’s grainy microtonal lines are especially at home in this liquid environment, filling in any gaps with sensual, slow-moving glissandos. Despite this sense of fluid motion, though, the album is never sleepy—the musicians interact with a hair-trigger alacrity that’s entirely exhilarating. Just as crucially, everyone’s improvisations seem to be guided by a finely honed composer’s impulse—they’re well constructed and feel like developed gestures and themes, not just shapeless groping. It’s still early in 2013, but I suspect Capricorn Climber will turn out to be one of the year’s highlights. Tonight superb Norwegian bassist Eivind Opsvik fills in for Dunn. —Peter Margasak

Price: $10

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