Kris Davis’s 'Corn Crake' Makes Difficult Music Easy to Enjoy

By 
Bryan Parys
December 17, 2019

The song is off her newest record, Diatom Ribbons, which the New York Times named as the best jazz album of the year.

Kris Davis with Val Jeanty and Terri Lyne Carrington
Pianist Kris Davis (center) collaborated with turntablist Val Jeanty (left) and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington (right) on the track "Corn Crake," off her latest album, <i>Diatom Ribbons</i>.
Image by Caroline Mardok

Depending on your tastes, the words “avant-garde jazz” might raise a cautious eyebrow, or even cause fear. But if you listen to pianist Kris Davis, associate program director of creative development in the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice, talk about “difficult” music, you’ll hear a very different response. Davis, who grew up in Alberta, Canada, came to jazz early, and by high school she was transcribing tunes by Herbie Hancock and Keith Jarrett. When she moved to New York City in 2001, she got plugged into a community of musicians who were exploring the intersections between composing and improvising, and something clicked. Since then, she’s put out an album nearly every year. In fall 2019, she released Diatom Ribbons, which made end-of-year lists at outlets such as NPR and PopMatters. The New York Times named it the best jazz album of 2019.

In this episode, we play the song “Corn Crake,” from Diatom Ribbons, and you’ll hear Davis talk about how it brought together turntables, improvisation, and the voice of French avant-garde composer Olivier Messiaen. She also talks about the more general sense of curiosity that drives her approach to music.

Media Referenced:

Engineered by Tony Brown and Brandon Bichajian
Produced by Bryan Parys and John Mirisola
Theme music by Sleeping Lion

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