"A freethinking, gifted pianist on the scene, Davis lives in each note that she plays. Her range is impeccable; she tackles prepared piano, minimalism, and jazz standards, all under one umbrella. I consider her an honorary descendant of Cecil Taylor and a welcome addition to the fold."
Jason Moran - Art Forum
We really couldn't put it better than Jason did, but will add that there are some interesting reads about her in our interview with David Breskin.
Here is our interview with Kris:
Can you pick out any favorites from your work that you're particularly proud of?
I would say my newest album, Diatom Ribbons, which features drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, DJ/turntablist Val Jeanty and various guests such as Esperanza Spalding, Nels Cline, Marc Ribot, Trevor Dunn, Tony Malaby, JD Allen, and Ches Smith.
What's the best place for those new to your work to become familiar with what you do?
I have 11 albums out as a leader, featuring a variety of instrumentations that mostly feature my own compositions. I play piano on all these albums.
I also love being a side person in other musicians' projects. It’s important to my work as a composer and improviser to learn from other musicians by playing their music. I am on about 30 albums as a side person and play in groups led by John Zorn, Terri Lyne Carrington, Michael Formanek, Ingrid Laubrock and others.
How did you get started in music? Do you play any instruments other than the main one you're known for?
I only play piano. I grew up in Calgary, Alberta, and started playing classical music at the age of 6. I discovered jazz at 13 by joining the jazz band in the 8th grade. I had a wonderful music teacher named Kevin Willms who was passionate about jazz and gave me all sorts of albums to listen to, from Miles Davis to Keith Jarrett. There were a couple of other students in the band that were into jazz and we would get together every weekend in the drummer's basement and jam, playing jazz standards and listening to albums.
Can you briefly describe a moment of frustration from your past work, and what you may have done to overcome the obstacles? Would you approach it differently now?
The most rewarding experience of playing music that blends improvisation and composition is when you have those spontaneous moments of connection with your fellow musicians and the composition is serving the moment, not getting in the way of it. If a composition is overwritten, it can do just that; when musicians are too focused on playing the material, listening and interacting can take a backseat, leading to uninspired performances. What will spark creativity in the players, but also give them the room to find the magic in the moment? It can be a struggle to figure out how much to write and how much to leave open. I am constantly questioning this in my own music and as I get older I’m finding that, in general, less is more.
Is there any gear you find yourself turning to most when working on a project?
I pretty much stick to the piano when I’m composing. Sometimes I use the music program Finale to write out my compositions. My Audeze headphones are always sitting on my piano when I’m working, so that I can pop them on if I need to listen to something or input my ideas into Finale. I love these headphones!!
Do you have any words of wisdom for people who might aspire to get where you are in their own careers?
Passion for your work is key. If you love what you do, you won’t work a day in your life. Don’t be afraid to take risks because the world rewards risk takers. Paying dues is part of every career path; as a musician, be prepared to pay dues for a lot longer than other professions. Stay focused on the work, be patient, learn from your peers and elders and be open to the journey. It’s worth it!!!
How long have you been working with headphones, and what inspired you to start including them in your workflow?
I have worked with the Audeze headphones for a few months now. The first time I put them on and listened to music, I couldn’t believe the difference. There was a clarity and depth to the music that I was just not hearing with my other headphones. I always listen to a variety of music before I start composing for inspiration and these headphones have improved my listening experience ten fold!!
* Photo from the Diatom Ribbons video by Mimi Chakarova, with Val Jeanty and Esperanza Spalding in the background.