Kris Davis Diatom Ribbons | Photo provided Kris Davis Terri Lyne Carrington Val Jeanty Trevor Dunn Julian Lage

Grammy-winning pianist and composer Kris Davis will enliven a night of Spoleto Festival USA with Diatom Ribbons, an eclectic spin-off combo named after her 2019 breakthrough album fusing jazz, hip-hop, rock and groove. With drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, guitarist Julian Lage, bassist Trevor Dunn and DJ Val Jeanty, Davis wants to shake things up June 2 with live new music at the College of Charleston Cistern Yard.

“I’m interested in pushing things a little bit — adding new people, new experiences or new ideas to think about in the music and with the musicians I’ve been playing with,” Davis said.

Blending and trying a variety of new things has always been at the forefront of Davis’s music. Since she started teaching at Boston’s Berklee College of Music four years ago, diversity has continued to be the most influential factor in her thinking.

“It’s such an international community, so I’m getting to work with students from totally different backgrounds and learn more about their traditions,” Davis said. “There’s something — whether it’s intentional or subconscious — I’ve always been interested in different kinds of genres and music from all over the world.”

Take Val Jeanty, Diatom Ribbons’ electronic musician and turntablist from Haiti. Jeanty, also a Berklee professor, pairs traditional rhythms with the esoteric sounds of her self-defined “Afro-electronica.” 

“There’s been some cool crossover with her approach,” Davis said. “She’s bringing a sort of unconventional instrumentation to a more quartet-type setting where we’re playing jazz, but we’re leaving more space open for all the players to do with it what they will.” 

Friday’s outdoor concert will be a night of risk-taking and experimentation with sound. For Davis, it’s manipulating the piano strings with prepared items to produce metallic, Gamelan-like tones. And for Trevor Dunn, it’s using both acoustic and electric basses to bring out different possibilities of timbre and texture with the instruments. 

“You never know what’ll happen,” Davis said. “Sometimes we play the pieces the way they’re structured, and other times it’s much more free and fluid in how we relate to each other, so every performance is different.” 

For the Spoleto set, the band plans to play new music from their live album, Kris Davis and Diatom Ribbons live at the Village Vanguard, which releases Sept. 1 from Davis’ independent, musician-run label Pyroclastic Records. 

“It’s all new music. We’re playing some pieces arranged by me, Geri Allen, Ronald Shannon Jackson and Wayne Shorter, who just passed away,” Davis said. “And then the rest of the pieces are mine. It blends through elements of jazz and all sorts of more experimental things.”

Carrington, a 2021 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, four-time Grammy-winner and the founding artistic director of the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice in Boston, has been a frequent collaborator with Davis over the years. 

“Kris is an amazing composer, and I always look forward to playing her music,” she said. “It’s very open, very loose. It has blues and avant-garde elements, so she’s got something for everyone in her set.” 

Carrington is also looking forward to playing the Festival again in the Cistern Yard’s open-air space. Her last visit was in 2019, where she performed a tribute to her late mentor Geri Allen. 

“I have some nice memories from that,” she said. “I’ll actually be coming back next year with my own band with [my 2022 album] New Standards, Vol. 1. So I’m looking forward to returning as well in 2024.”

Offering a sneak peek into the Diatom Ribbons concert this week, Carrington said her personal favorite is the late Wayne Shorter’s “Dolores.”

“Wayne was also my mentor. I actually knew Dolores, the person he wrote the song for, so I look forward to playing that,” Carrington said.

To find out more, audiences will have to see the show for themselves. 

“Hopefully, people are surprised,” said Davis, “and they can never guess what’s coming next.”

IF YOU PLAN TO GO: Kris Davis Diatom Ribbons will be showing at the College of Charleston Cistern Yard on June 2 at 9 p.m.  Tickets are $30.50 to $68.

Piper Starnes is an arts journalism graduate student at Syracuse University.

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