Caroline Davis “Heart Tonic” at Jazz Gallery 4/13/18 (by Marta Sanchez)

PERSONNEL: Caroline Davis (alto saxophone), Noah Preminger (tenor saxophone), Julian Shore (piano, rhodes and synth), Tamir Shmerling (upbright and electric bass), Jay Sawyer (drums), Rogerio Boccato (percussion on “Ocean Motion”)

SET LIST: Constructs, Penelope (Wayne Shorter), Footloose and Fancy Free, People Look Like Tanks, Air, Ocean Motion (all songs by Caroline Davis except the Shorter)

HIGHLIGHTS: Caroline’s solo over “Constructs” was a powerful improvisation, full of rhythmic confidence and fresh ideas.

Caroline Davis celebrated the release of her CD “Heart Tonic” on Sunnyside Records. Her eight compositions plus an arrangement of Wayne Shorter’s “Penelope” are influenced by many different stylistic ideas that go from traditional jazz to the most avant-garde, although the whole set stayed coherent and personal.

Like many of Davis’s compositions, “Constructs” has many different parts that explore different atmospheres. It begins with a tricky bass line over which the horns play a mysterious melody. After that, the rhythm section breathes, going into a kind of vamp that opens for a short shared improvisation by Davis and Noah Preminger. The melody in the horns developed to become more angular and rhythmic, and almost before we realize it the tune became a fast swing feel for brilliant solos by Davis, Preminger, and Julian Shore.

Davis’s arrangement of Wayne Shorter’s “Penelope” was faster and more rhythmically intricate than the original ballad. Shore offered a compelling solo that created a lot of space for interaction with the rhythm section.

Shore’s synth intro to “Footloose and Fancy Free”  somehow reminded me of a Haitian chorus, the way one of the voices go a half step apart when you least expect it.  The tune proper started with an electric bass line, over which the horns sang a sophisticated avant-garde melody creating a contrapuntal, rhythmically complex effect.

“People Look Like Tanks” was the only composition not included on the CD. Davis wrote a gorgeous melody over a steady rhythm on the piano that created the most poetic moment of the night.

An atmospheric and textural drum intro by Jay Sawyer set up the vibe of “Air,” a really pretty ballad that honored its title. Shore painted with rich chords in his feature. Eventually the horns started soloing together. Preminginer and Davis were on fire, encouraging each other and reaching high levels of energy.

Rogerio Boccato joined to play the last song of the set and the last one of the CD, “Ocean Motion”, a tune that started with a powerful line in 9/8 played by Tamir on electric bass. The vibe remind me a bit of Weather Report, with an African rhythm underneath in an electric format. The tune ended with an exchange between drums and percussion, where Jay and Rogerio displayed endless ideas.

Caroline Davis’s music is deep and personal. It is rhythmically complex, but the band made the difficulties sound easy and natural. Everyone onstage was free to make things happen.

— by Marta Sanchez