Pianist and Composer Kris Davis Awarded a 2021 Doris Duke Artist Award Alongside Wayne Shorter and Danilo Perez

Kris Davis, a 2021 Doris Duke Artist in the jazz category, is a critically acclaimed pianist and composer who was described by The New York Times as a beacon for “deciding where to hear jazz on a given night.”

Since 2003, Davis has released 23 recordings as a leader or co-leader and has collaborated with previous fellow Doris Duke Artists such as Terri Lyne Carrington and Craig Taborn along with other celebrated musicians. Davis began studying classical piano at age six, and in her early teens, she discovered her love of jazz through the music of Herbie Hancock and Keith Jarrett, leading her to study jazz at the University of Toronto. She then completed a master’s degree in classical composition from the City College of New York a few years later.

In 2019, her album “Diatom Ribbons” was named jazz album of the year by both the New York Times and the NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll. She was also named 2020 Pianist of the Year, 2017 Rising Star Pianist and 2018 Rising Star Artist by DownBeat, and 2020 Pianist and Composer of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association. Her 2016 release, “Duopoly,” was listed as one of the best albums of the year by Jazz Times.

In 2016, Davis launched Pyroclastic Records to support artists whose expression expands beyond the commercial sphere. She subsequently formed a nonprofit organization to support the label’s work, which has been steadily growing, releasing five to six albums per year. In addition, Davis is the associate program director of creative development at the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice.

Davis was a 2015 recipient of the Doris Duke Impact Award, and she has also received multiple commissions for composing new works from The Shifting Foundation, The Jazz Gallery and the Canada Council for the Arts.

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Pyroclastic – 10 labels to know from the Grammys

Another independent, musician-run label to support this year, Pyroclastic Records is run by the exquisite pianist Kris Davis. Her teeming duet album with Craig Taborn, Octopus(opens in a new tab), is a highlight of their catalog.

Pyroclastic also just put out Junk Magic’s Compass Confusion(opens in a new tab), one of the most jarring and fascinating crossovers into electronic music this sphere has seen in years.

Davis founded Pyroclastic to holistic ends. “I launched Pyroclastic Records in hopes that I could grow a modest label to support a whole community within the creative music scene,” she wrote on the label website. She wanted her artists to own their own masters and not take a financial hit to create.

“I knew I needed to develop a new model, so I created a nonprofit to support the work of the label,” she wrote. As a result, “We’ve been steadily growing, releasing 5 [to] 6 albums per year.”

Right now, their Bandcamp offers over a dozen selections by top-shelf artists like pianists Angelica Sanchez and Marilyn Crispell and trumpeter Nate Wooley. Whatever Pyroclastic has in store next, be advised not to sleep on it.


Kris Davis, an analysis of her composition, improvisation and the interaction between both

Thesis by Clara Lai Monzón


“Kris Davis, an analysis of her composition, improvisation and the interaction between both” is a dissertation based on the investigation of pianist and composer Kris Davis’ music. Through the analysis of different tunes from different albums, this thesis seeks to understand and draw conclusions about the origin of her compositional and improvisational style, as well as present some of her approaches and musical resources that make possible the result of such a personal and creative language. This essay’s methodology is based, for a high percentage of the time, on the analysis of transcriptions of her compositions and solo extracts besides improvised fragments. Some original Kris Davis scores were also used, as well as direct information obtained through an interview, in addition to articles and critic reviews.

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