Kris Davis’s 'Corn Crake' Makes Difficult Music Easy to Enjoy
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.
Engineered by Tony Brown and Brandon Bichajian
Produced by Bryan Parys and John Mirisola
Theme music by Sleeping Lion