Early study of classical music has influenced her style



ottawa Jazz festival


New York-based pianist Kris Davis brings her quartet to Ottawa for a lively concert at the NAC Studio tonight.


“Once I discovered jazz I just found it was a better way for me to be creative and express myself.”

She moved from Canada to New York City six years ago to broaden her jazz horizons and find more opportunities to play with world-renowned musicians.

In that bustling city and musical hub, Kris Davis has carved a niche as one of the most original jazz pianists around, but she says her early years studying classical music certainly influence her sound.

“I loved the elements of classical music but I had really bad stage fright and I always stressed about the memorization,” says Davis.

“Once I discovered jazz I just found it was a better way for me to be creative and express myself as a performer.”

To date, the bandleader of the Kris Davis Quartet has released two albums, Lifespan in 2004 and The Slightest Shift in 2006. Both earned the pianist praise from critics and her peers, who recognized something special in her adventurous approach to composing.

Davis says that because her music is not easily defined, people seem to either love it or hate it. She recalls a recent concert in a Connecticut club where several people got up and left a few minutes into her set.

“I know people expect a certain kind of thing from a jazz pianist, and my music isn’t always what you would expect, so when there’s a strong reaction like that I figure at least it’s making people feel something, even if they don’t like it,” she says with a laugh.

When it comes to performing live, Davis says she likes to gather input from quartet members Tony Malaby on sax, bass player Eivind Opsvik and drummer Jeff Davis, on how to put together the best show possible.

“Everybody has an equal say about what we should do to make each section flow, because I just think that makes the music that much better when everyone has input,” Davis said.

Then, with a chuckle, she adds, “But I do write all the music myself so I guess that’s why I get my name out there.”

The Kris Davis Quartet plays tonight at 10:30 p.m. at the NAC Studio as part of JazzFest. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased by calling 613-241-2633 or visiting ticketmaster.ca.