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Kris Davis: Duopoly

The premise: Take pianist Kris Davis. Pair her up with eight respected players with whom she has never previously recorded. Limit the instrumental categories of Davis’ partners to four: guitarists (Bill Frisell, Julian Lage), drummers (Billy Drummond, Marcus Gilmore), reed players (Tim Berne, Don Byron) and other pianists (Craig Taborn, Angelica Sanchez). Have Davis do two pieces with each partner, one composed and one freely improvised. Record it all live-to-two-track with no rehearsals and no editing. Make a video of the session. Include a DVD.

The results are mixed. There are some nice moments. On “Prairie Eyes,” the cries of Frisell’s Telecaster guitar are like omens. They loom in a darkening sky. On the improvised piece, Frisell’s sonic world is enveloping and self-contained, but Davis finds ways into it by carefully placing quiet, lingering piano notes.

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