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Caroline Davis and Rob Clearfield’s Persona: Anthems (Sunnyside)

A review of the album from the saxophonist and keyboardist group

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Caroline Davis and Rob Clearfield's Persona, Anthems
The cover of Anthems by Caroline Davis and Rob Clearfield’s Persona

Saxophonist Caroline Davis and keyboardist Rob Clearfield’s Persona, much like the 1966 Ingmar Bergman film inspiring the group’s name, is bent on exploring themes of convergence and identity. The co-leaders capitalize on the bonds they formed during their shared days in Chicago, but their album isn’t bound to any single scene or tied to a particular aesthetic. It’s a mind-melding affair, subsuming identities.

A trio of Davis originals introduces and establishes this artistic merger from different angles. “People Look Like Tanks,” inspired by the work of artist Carlo Zinelli, captures the painter’s struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder by juxtaposing developmental threads against an insistent piano tether. “Bots,” a far lengthier work, deals in plaintive wonders. And “Anthem,” a playful and pronounced miniature, toys with choppy rhythms and dissected thoughts. In each instance, Davis and Clearfield, along with bassist Sam Weber and drummer Jay Sawyer, find ways to wrap themselves into the fabric of the music while still maintaining a form of self-determination endemic to the art.

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Originally Published

Dan Bilawsky

Dan Bilawsky has been involved in jazz journalism for 15 years. His work has appeared in JazzTimes, JAZZed, and All About Jazz, among other outlets. In addition, he’s penned liner notes for artists on Red, Capri, HighNote/Savant, Ropeadope, and other respected imprints. A band director with 20 years of teaching experience, he holds degrees in music from Indiana University, the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, and Five Towns College.