The opening track of We Sleep Outside, the “Bruce and Brunost Suite” grabs your attention with a strong anthem-like theme, and then sends the listener through waves of texture and sound, building layers of themes and improvisations, finally allowing the final statement to pop through. “Talk To Me” starts with a delicate melody but gradually builds to a fiery peak that allows Tony Barba to shine. The piece builds in intensity only to end with a brief repose. “Black Beard” brings many of Davis’ rock influences together, and is a natural vehicle for Jon Goldberger, while also showcasing the drummer’s power. “Fred Ullmann” is dedicated to the memory of Davis’ grandfather. A haunting, emotional composition, the piece is almost transparent, unfolding with a layering of trios, breaking up the group into opposing sections while remaining tranquil. “Slipper Hero” was composed as a series of musical interruptions, starting with piano trio, building through a bass solo, which is immediately interrupted by a series of trumpet and saxophone solos that add to a soaring theme that brings the composition abruptly to a close. “We Sleep Outside,” the title track, is coda to the album, invoking an air of open space, mysterious and dark, yet resolving the tension with a brightness that lingers.
We Sleep Outside
Jeff Davis | Loyal Label (2010)
By Troy Collins
All About Jazz
Troy also writes for Point of Departure, and has written for Cadence, One Final Note, Bagatellen and Junkmedia.
The tightly knit Brooklyn scene has yielded a number of exceptional ensembles in the past few years, including Michael Bates’ Outside Sources, Kris Davis’ Quartet, Jon Irabagon’s Outright!, Kirk Knuffke’s Quartet, Eivind Opsvik’s Overseas, the RIDD Quartet and Tone Collector. The common denominator uniting these various bands is drummer Jeff Davis, a former student of pianist Art Lande and trumpeter Ron Miles. An inventive improviser partial to unconventional textures and unpredictable rhythms, Davis’ capricious creativity and alert responsiveness have made him an in-demand sideman.
We Sleep Outside, his first album as a leader, focuses as much on his talents as a writer and bandleader as an improviser. Like many of his generation, his writing encompasses a number of genres, yet Davis understands the importance of creating a context for such diversity. Sequencing individual tunes into a suite-like program, the set unfolds episodically, seamlessly blending divergent moods.
Supported by his longstanding sextet (formed in 2006), Davis and company blur the line between the composed and improvised with ease. Frequently obscuring the roles of soloist and accompanist, he often divides the group into rotating duos and trios, while offsetting individual soloists with bouts of collective improvisation. His band-mates practiced interplay is reinforced by a communal sensibility, reflected in their use of Davis’ services in their own ensembles, namely trumpeter Kirk Knuffke, bassist Eivind Opsvik and Jeff’s wife, pianist Kris Davis. Rounded out by guitarist Jon Goldberger and saxophonist Tony Barba, Davis’ unit embarks on a journey that revels in shadowy hues.
The brooding Milesian drama of “Bruce and Brunost Suite” opens the album, establishing the tenor of the session with a foreboding electro-acoustic undercurrent. Episodic in scope and anthem-like in approach, the suite gracefully modulates through a number of sections, featuring a string of visceral solos from the sextet. “Black Beard” ventures deeper into pungent jazz-rock territory, spotlighting Goldberger’s scorching arpeggios, Barba’s volcanic tenor and the leader’s turbulent kit work.
Davis’ compositional prowess comes to the fore on “Slipper Hero,” staging a series of dynamic interludes between different combinations of players before resolving in a soaring unison denouement. Culminating with similar fervor, but following a more expansive arc, “Talk to Me” rises from dulcet introspection to a cathartic dialogue between Barba’s frantic tenor and Goldberger’s incendiary guitar. Providing respite from the album’s acerbic fare, the understated “Waltz” and haunting ballad “Fred Ullmann” reveal Davis’ dark melodic gifts, while the collectively composed title track closes the album on a bittersweet note.
Underground scenes often foster an incredible range of new talent—counterbalanced by equally fierce competition. Historically it has been the role of independent labels to capture the prevailing zeitgeist, separating the innovators from the imitators. The Brooklyn-based Loyal Label is quickly becoming one of the most noteworthy of such stateside independents. We Sleep Outside is an excellent example of their aesthetic and a bold debut for Jeff Davis.
Track listing: Bruce and Brunost Suite; Talk To Me; Black Beard; Waltz; Fred Ullmann; Slipper Hero; We Sleep Outside.
Personnel: Jeff Davis: drums, percussion; Eivind Opsvik: upright bass; Jon Goldberger: guitar; Kris Davis: piano, Fender Rhodes piano; Tony Barba: tenor and soprano saxophone, clarinet; Kirk Knuffke: trumpet.
-Troy Collins (All About Jazz)
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“Drummer Jeff Davis has a steady profile in left-of-center New York jazz circles…”
- Nate Chinen (The New York Times)
" An inventive improviser partial to unconventional textures and unpredictable rhythms, Davis’ capricious creativity and alert responsiveness have made him an in-demand sideman."
- Troy Collins (All About Jazz)
“Jeff Davis is the most discreet figure of the quartet, humility at the service of the collective yet extremely precise and reliable, a teaching for certain drummers who would have better served themselves by becoming wailing guitarists instead of banging our ears off the head.”
- Massimo Ricci, Temporary Fault, review of RIDD Quartet ‘Fiction Avalanche’
“Davis creates a foundation that effortlessly moves between defined groove and a more textural approach…” John Kelman, All About Jazz.
“Jeff Davis’ drumming inventions were constantly surprising, always catchy (delicate mallets on inverted cymbal resting on tom, sticks smartly scraping cymbals, irregular time, and more!)”
-Gilles Laheurte, Jazz Improv Magazine
“The rhythm section is top notch; Radding and Davis are two of the finest players of their generation. Their interaction is punchy and aggressive, yet fluid and dynamically varied. They veer from abstract, ramshackle rhythms peppered with metric modulation and stop-time tempos to sly understated swing with effortless grace.”
-Troy Collins (All About Jazz)
“…drummer, Jeff Davis, is a force of nature!”
-Graciela Carriqui, CD Baby