Intimacy. That’s what always strikes me about Kris Davis. The sense of intimacy. Having been on the scene for only few short years, her visibility has grown in the last few years due to a string on releases as leader and with collaborators. I mistakenly forgot to write about her last record Good Citizen (Fresh Sounds New Talent) as one of my albums of the year in 2010. But this year make no mistake, my two top records of years are set in stone. And I bet you can guess one of them right now, eh?!? There is a peaceful quality to her latest release, the solo piano effort, Aeriol Piano (Clean Feed). “Saturn Return” unravels slowly with dark intentions crafted around a simply melody before moving to a more improvisational mood. It feels like an early John Cage piano work. It’s complex yet gentle enough for the newest of listeners to grasp every endearing moment. A slight reinterpretation of “Good Citizen” is intriguing to experience without the quartet from the last record. This time around it feels more climatic; with more cascading moments than the previous version may not have allowed you to hear. “Beam The Eyes” travels methodically along a path of inversion that makes crackling and disturbing sparks of life towards its conclusion. This theme also carries through a short time later on both “Stone” and “The Last Time” with moments that parallel Keith Jarrett and even more multiform pieces by Morton Feldman. There’s a serenity that is broken up with moments of fierce treatment to keyboard but with clear justification of theme. “Work For Water” closes out the album on a steady more classical trained tone. It’s a soft wistful way to end a session that has interwoven so many challenging patterns. For one to really enjoy and understand one of the best kept secrets in jazz, you have to experience Aeriol Piano for yourself. Kris Davis is one of a short handful of creative pianist on the scene today. If you are looking for legacy of modern improvised piano since Keith Jarrett, and more recently Jason Moran–Kris Davis is it. More on Aeriol Piano towards the end of the year. But for now, I repeat what I said at the outset–Aeriol Piano is one of my two top albums of the year. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Stephan Moore