August 2006

Kris Davis, “The Slightest Shift” (Fresh Sound)

From the outset of “The Slightest Shift,” pianist Kris Davis’ impressive second album, you get a sense of kaleidoscopic possibilities in the playing and compositions. There’s color and angularity and continual movement in her approach, which entrusts her quartet — tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby, bassist Eivind Opsvik and drummer Jeff Davis (her husband) — to work independently toward a common goal.

Malaby, who seems to be everywhere these days, lays down long, sinuous, dark-toned lines — the album is nothing if not gloomy, albeit in a compelling way — into which the Canadian-born Davis injects short, jagged, nervy phrases that can lead even as they follow. The music is full of contrasts: light and dark, delicate and thick, swift and slow. Where you choose to go is whom you choose to lead you. Yes, it’s interactive free jazz, rendered by one of the real up and comers on the scene.

Lloyd Sachs