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Kris Davis: Massive Threads

Kris Davis clearly communicates abstract concepts, a talent that endears her work to intellectual listeners. The imagery that comes out of her piano can be vividly cinematic, but her compositional style ensures that the sonic movie will likely be of the art-house variety.

Massive Threads is the second solo piano album for Davis, and like Aeriol Piano (2011), it distills her artistry in a way that sounds both austere and exploratory. “Ten Exorcists” begins with trance-like repetition reminiscent of Steve Reich or Terry Riley, then slides into a different repetition with brittle, prepared-piano notes thrown in, and continues those variations to create a gently intoxicating effect. “Desolation and Despair” shows her rhythmic mastery of resonance and sustain, like a better-edited Keith Jarrett. The lone cover, of Thelonious Monk’s “Evidence,” is not so much deconstructed as haltingly assembled with a few wrinkles, drawing out the syncopation before folding it into a brief, closing flourish of chamber blues.

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