Two years ago I would not have given a release such as this a second look, now artists like Caroline Davis are the reason I write. Davis is working a rock solid quartet with Mike Allemana on guitar, Matt Ferguson on bass, and drummer Jeremy Cunningham.
Upon arriving in Chicago in 2004, Davis expanded her harmonic base and by doing so her improvisational skills took off along with a greater appreciation for more complex rhythmic patterns all of which are in full effect on Live Work & Play. Caroline Davis has original compositions well placed along with a tune from guitarist Allemana, a Billy Strayhorn tune "Blood Count" with a distinct reharm by Allemana and a Charlie Parker tune "Cheryl." In terms of style or genre, Davis allows her diversity to rule the flow going from a more zen like minimalistic approach of her tune "Dionysus" to a foot to the floor free jazz exploratory of the Parker tune "Cheryl." Normally an artist that hangs out in odd time signatures for any great length can (for me) border on the self indulgent but Davis does not even come close. Allemana provides the perfect counterpoint to Davis bringing a strong political and social p.o.v to the table with "The Academic Suite, Part 1" which is a tune about a DePaul University professor denied tenure based on research of his that was critical of Israel. Davis opens up on this tune with a nice warm tone and strong lyrical presence. Normally I bristle when artists mix politics with music but the end result here is well worth the attempt. A somewhat conceptual release by nature, "Craftsmanship and Emptiness" are a self examination by Davis and her efforts to be more patient as a person and an artist. According to Davis the thematic concept in play here is the sonic representation of the artist's struggle to live, work, and play. Bassist Matt Ferguson and drummer Jeremy Cunningham swing hard and act as the rhythmic engine for a 4tet that seems to have endless possibilities. Chicago has long been known as one of the major jazz cities in the U.S. thanks largely to it's celebration of musical diversity. Caroline Davis is a prime example of just how good the talent is in the windy city.
An exemplary effort. A rising star and definitely a name to remember. Davis never camps out in odd meter long enough to lose the listener and her improvisational skills are on par with anyone. Someone once complained I give out to many 5 star ratings, can I help it if the blatantly obvious is not lost on me?
Tracks: Kowtow; Passive Cloud; Blood Count; Dionysus; Old Rims; Shiny Rims; Real Rims, For Kalvin; Craftsmanship And Emptiness, For Rumi; The Academic Freedom Suite, Part 1; Cheryl.
Personnel: Caroline Davis: alto saxophone; Mike Allemana: guitar; Matt Ferguson: bass; Jeremy Cunningham: drums.
Photo creatively acquired from www.carolinedavis.org