New York saxophonist and scholar Caroline Davis reinterprets her exploratory compositions in a trio setting. Tix/info
Alto saxophonist Caroline Davis is a formidable scholar, but she's hardly limited to academic pursuits. Yes, she earned a PhD from Northwestern University, interviewing groups of jazz musicians and combing the data for clues about music cognition. And her 2015 album, Doors: Chicago Storylines, was the tip of an iceberg-sized project that collected oral histories on the city's fertile but until then poorly documented jazz scene of the 1980s and 1990s. But Davis was an active musician even while a student, and graduating only made her busier; for example, as she puts it, she began attending Von Freeman's jam sessions "religiously" once her diploma was in hand.
In 2013 Davis moved to New York, where she threw herself into the artistic melee (she used to go to a show every night of the week) and found a foothold. Now, she has released her first true New York album, a quintet record called Heart Tonic. On the album, Davis' solos seem exploratory and thoughtful, and her sound is, as always, light and controlled while retaining some brassiness and ballast. All this combines terrifically with the velvet-toned, swashbuckling Marquis Hill, a fellow Chicago expat and the deserving winner of the 2014 Thelonious Monk trumpet competition. For the tour, however, Davis will bring a trio of long-time collaborators: pianist Rob Clearfield (Matt Ulery's Loom) and bassist John Tate (Charles Rumback). It would be great to hear the full band, but these old friends, in the small, resonant room at Arts + Literature Lab, should rework Davis' material in rewarding and new ways. —Abe Sorber