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Kris Davis: Aeriol Piano

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In what was an exceptional year for solo piano albums, Kris Davis’ Aeriol Piano and Craig Taborn’s Avenging Angel were especially striking, the work of artists using the format not as a stylistic retreat, but as a way to boldly extend and heighten their sound and vision. A fascinating companion piece of sorts to Davis’ other 2011 album, Tony Malaby’s Novela, a nonet effort for which she wrote the arrangements, Aeriol Piano is both her most challenging and most accessible work.

Davis, who named the album after an early player piano, makes exuberant use of locked-in effects like the percolating minimalist bass notes on “Stone,” one of four short pieces that end Aeriol Piano in suitelike fashion. But she pushes off such scaffolding to explore space, inner and outer, free of structural constrictions. Similarly, Davis blissfully deconstructs “All the Things You Are,” progressing steadily from lucid freestanding lines that barely hint at the melody to a quick statement of it at the end.

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