On her 2016 album Duopoly, pianist and member of the Performance Faculty in the Music Department of Princeton University Kris Davis highlighted her deeply attuned artistry as never before. Conceived as a set of rotating duo performances, Duopoly found Davis in the company of Bill Frisell, Tim Berne, Don Byron, Julian Lage, Marcus Gilmore and other musical giants. Of all these fascinating encounters, it was the pairing of Davis and fellow piano great Craig Taborn, that sparked further extensive collaboration. Soon the two pianists would embark on a 12-city tour of the U.S., with new music for the occasion. Octopus, a magisterial live album drawn from three of those concerts, is the result.
Recalling the Duopoly session with Taborn, Davis writes in her liner notes: “From the moment we started playing I felt instantly transported and free within the music, and had the sense we could go anywhere.” Taborn responded similarly: “It was remarkable how effortless and inspired it felt. It was immediately apparent that it was easy to make music happen in this pairing and that we were well matched in terms of both aesthetics and approach.”
With the support of The Shifting Foundation, Davis and Taborn set out to translate their in-studio rapport to the concert stage, which resulted in the Octopus tour: from Brooklyn’s Roulette to Seattle’s Earshot Festival, from the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC to the Wexner Center in Columbus, Ohio. Ron Saint Germain, engineer on the Duopoly duo sessions, came along on the road with a recording rig designed to capture two grand pianos in a variety of spaces.
“The pieces on Octopus are the pieces we played every night on the tour,” Davis explains. “Each concert was different, in some cases radically so. We often left out large sections of the compositions in favor of developing new, wholly improvised sections which became more and more expansive.” Along with their new original works, the duo included absorbing interpretations of Carla Bley’s “Sing Me Softly of the Blues” and Sun Ra’s “Love in Outer Space.”
Octopus received glowing reviews from both the Wall Street Journal and the Village Voice, among others. Click below to read them.
Wall Street Journal ‘Octopus’ by Craig Taborn and Kris Davis Review: Diving for Deep Listening
The Village Voice Piano Madness: Kris Davis and Craig Taborn in Freewheeling Dialogue