O's PLACE JAZZ MAGAZINE
Billie Davies - All About Love
O's Notes: Billie Davies plays drums and leads a trio with trombonist Tom Bone Ralls and bassist Oliver Steinberg. The absence of keyboards or guitar leaves a lot of space to enjoy the full tones of these lower register instruments, a rather unique approach. The trio wrote three of the selections plus one from Ralls to go along with six freshly arranged standards. We liked the second rendition of "Afro Blue" best of all.
~D. Oscar Groomes, O's Place Jazz Magazine.
The Billie Davies Trio: All About Love (2012, Cobra Basement):
Drummer, website describes her as "post cool jazz & avant garde drummer" -- could parse that two ways, with a disconnect either way. Album, her first as far as I can tell, is a trio with trombone (Tom Bone Ralls) and bass (Oliver Steinberg). Tuneful -- well, anything with "Afro Blue" is that and this has two takes -- shifted into a lower register, a nice effect, more cool than avant. B+(**) = 4.5 Stars
The Billie Davies Trio: All About Love (2012, Cobra Basement): In my review of the drummer's debut record, I referred to "him" and "his" when I should have written "her." Not sure how I got confused about that. B+(**)
~Tom Hull, Jazz Prospecting.
The Billie Davies Trio: All About Love.
Jazz combos without chordal accompaniment (piano less) are rareties these days- if they exist at all. Gerry Mulligan's 1950 quartet, with trumpeter Chet Baker, bassist Bob Whitlock, and drummer Chico Hamilton; along with The Sonny Rollins Trio 1957 "Way Out West" album, featuring Ray Brown on bass, and Shelly Manne on drums, are two of the quintessential jazz aggregations that set the standard for this grouping. The Billie Davies Band is a piano less ensemble that manages to overcome the challenges that are inherent in such an arrangement: maintaining stimulating textures and colors without generating chaos; keeping clear harmonic structures; and eschewing loss of place by musicians and listeners. Stripping down the date's selections to their elemental harmonic and melodic form, the trio imbues each song with renewed innovative inventions that emanate from a genuine awareness and respect for their histories. The listener is treated to jazz inclinations within the trio that bristle with cutting-edge freshness.
Familiarity and accessibility ignite the listener's interest and assist the players in rising to the challenge of achieving and maintaining harmonic structure on the opening track (Stella By Starlight), Victor Young and Ned Washington's beautiful jazz standard. Trombonist Tom Bone Ralls raspy, but rounded and melodic opening solo is answered by drummer Billie Davies' tasteful, intricate, progressive polyrhythms.
It falls naturally to drummer Davies and bassist Oliver Steinberg to map out the changes clearly, leaving space for Bone Ralls' trombone to execute the melody and improvise his composition (Downtown In The Rain). However, it is the trio's reading of Miles Davis' (Jean Pierre: We Want Miles; 1981), that showed the highest level of harmonic and melodic magical interplay; achieved around the sound of Davies' Tony Williams-like time signatures and Steinberg's pulsing bass beat; giving the tune a textured, slinky strut, overlayed with Bone Ralls stupefying trombone reprise of Davis' sound, and ethereal, chant-like voicing, culminating in a Milesian, signature Harmon muted-like coda.
Tom Bone Ralls plays the trombone like he's got all the time he needs; not lazy; his phrasing is well rounded, pristine, and is impacted with depth, and an inspired eloquence that is the result of his comprehensive playing experience. His interpretations of John Coltrane's (Naima), and Mongo Santamaria's Afro-Cuban classic (Afro Blue) are soulful, satisfying, and considerably informed by Davies' drumming which eschews self indulgence, instead making space for Tom Bone Ralls to convey each tune's simple, subtle beauty with ravishing, elemental clarity.
Billie Davies stunning drumming technique and style are undoubtedly by-products of the vicissitudes attendant to her existence as a 'lifelong natural musician'; and a creative passionate focus to her music, matched only by a fierce inner muse that shepherds her personal and professional stratagems. But it is her uncanny ability to 'listen,' 'hear,' and communicate a certain emotional, common feeling to listeners, musicians, and audience, that makes her a "jazz drummer" and nourishes her boundless improvisational skills; anticipating the conversations on three of her avant Garde compositions, (Green Cheese; BUrst; High Noon) between bassist Steinberg and trombonist Bone Ralls and providing context, energy and drive.
In the end, many elements make this date work; the artists, their talent, and experience; Surely Billie Davies' dream and creative endeavor to produce a sublime, genre-stretching, versatile, committed trio. But when everything is considered, tallied, and summed up; the total indicates, that it's really: "All About Love."
~CJ Bond, JAZZ MUSIC
Female Drummer Billie Davies, who originally hails from Belgium is at the helm, leading her trio through a well-balanced program of standards re-arranged and originals that complement each other in the context of this recording with ease. This is not for the casual listener who lives in the swing zone – All About Love is just that, a true love story of the improvisation of jazz and its innate nature to stretch, pull and push the boundaries. The Billie Davies Trio truly shows its devotion to the jazz idiom with this wonderful debut of creative modern borderline Avant-garde offering – truly a delight on many levels and I hope not the last from The Billie Davies Trio.
~Geannine Reid, Jazz Times
The Billie Davies Trio - All About Love (Cobra Basement)
All About Love could equally have been called All About Improv as this album is all about the spontaneous moment that jazz is created. A trio of musicians set in a circle facing each other in a small recording studio and playing off each others creativity. With Billie Davies on drums, Tom Bones Ralls on trombone and Oliver Steinberg on bass, this is a trio that stretches the boundaries beyond the norm. The album contains a mix of original music by the trio and several covers by the likes of Miles Davis, Mongo Santamaria and John Coltrane. Ms Davies hails from Belgium but is veteran traveler around the world and has been long settled in the USA, where she has absorbed a lot of jazz and mastered the drums. I think this may be her first album as leader, but it has a confidence hewn from much playing of improv and avant-garde jazz. As you would imagine with such a line-up of instruments the sound is spare and sparse, rather raw but refined through the musical experience of the three players.
All About Love contains ten tracks and their titles are: Stella By Starlight, Downtown in the Rain, Jean Pierre, Naima, Afro Blue, Green Cheese, Burst!, High Noon, Afro Blue Too, Stella By Starlight Too. I don't think this is an album that will appeal to the casual jazz listener - the strong improvisation and avant-garde nature of the music demands serious attention from a committed listener. But if they do commit their time and ears to this album they won't be disappointed by what they hear.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.billiedavies.com
~John M. Peters, THE BORDERLAND
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
Billie Davies: All About Love (2012)
Idiosyncratic drummer Billie Davies is mostly an autodidact whose natural talent, relentless, explorative spirit and multifaceted experiences have led to an innovative approach to jazz. Her bold individualism is showcased on All About Love, a collaborative effort that has her democratically guiding an unusual, bottom-heavy ensemble with lyrical trombonist Tom Bone Ralls and versatile bassist Oliver Steinberg.
Davies creates complex motives and blurs the distinction between melody and rhythm on such pieces as John Coltrane's "Naima" and the minimalistic second take of the Mongo Santamaria classic "Afro Blue Too." Her rich harmonies contrast nicely with the atonality of her own "High Noon" that flirts with the avant-garde. The tune also demonstrates the intense camaraderie that drives the intrepid and unpredictable group interplay.
These intelligent three-way conversations, with their musical twists and turns, endow the two short originals, "Green Cheese" and "Burst," with a deliciously surreal atmosphere as Ralls' earthy and expansive trombone blows over the rapidly evolving tapestry of tight bass and drum cadences.
Ralls angular style does not sacrifice any of his warmth and lyricism on "Stella by Starlight," and his bluesy embellishments remain highly cerebral on "Afro Blue." His muted sound still swaggers on Miles Davis' fusion-esque "Jean Pierre." The track also features Steinberg's soulful electric bass and Davies' edgy and swinging kit work.
Steinberg is equally adept on the acoustic version of his instrument, as he amply demonstrates with a complex pizzicato solo on "Stella by Starlight Too." His cool and dependable grooves anchor band mate Ralls' theme, "Downtown in the Rain."
On this third release as a leader, the Belgium native/California-based Davies demonstrates a mature temperament as she skirts the edges of modal and free extemporizations with her delightfully singular trio. The intimate yet progressive music on this too brief album is like modern poetry, mordant yet sublime.
~HRAYR ATTARIAN, All About Jazz
The Billie Davies Trio – all about Love (2012)
Belgium native Billie Davies first started drumming at the age of three, and even though she dabbled in a number of other artistic endeavors, like singing and DJ’ing, her skills behind the kit were notable enough to garner the attention of Max Roach, who offered her a scholarship at the Berklee School of Music. It was at a time of her life when she was having too much fun to engage in serious studies, so she turned it down.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
Eventually though, Davies devoted herself full time toward drumming, picking up innumerable styles that she has mastered, including soul/funk, blues, classical, and all shades of jazz. In the last few year, though, she’s immersed herself into jazz forms exclusively, moving to Hollywood and forming a trio, The Billie Davies Trio. The fruits of her collaboration with trio members Tom Bone Ralls (trombone) and Oliver Steinberg (bass) are set forth in this new CD, all about Love.
all about Love is all about relaxed improvisation, with a hard swing coming from Davies and a distillation of each song’s melody down to only its crucial notes. That leaves vast, wide open spaces in which to stretch out. What sets Davies’ record apart from other drummer-led records is this: she doesn’t have to play so hard nosed to get herself noticed, because there’s only a bass and a tactfully played trombone in front of her. She’s able to attract attention by playing naturally.
Davies, as noted, swings her ass off, but is always layering it with polyrhythms and tasteful fills, a style not terribly afar from the great Elvin Jones’ or the subtle complexity of Peter Erskine. There are a lot of well-worn standards here: “Naima,” “Jean Pierre” (Youtube below) and two renditions a piece of “Stella By Starlight” and “Afro Blue.” That might typically trouble me, but the performances themselves make too much hay for me to pay much mind to what standards have been chosen. In addition to these tunes, Ralls turns in a melodic original “Downtown In The Rain,”(Youtube below) and there are a couple of brief group improvs “Green Cheese” and BUrst!,” as well as a bluesy jam “High Noon.”
The loose feel of all about Love and the effortless mastery of rhythms displayed by Davies make this an easy album to sink your ears into, even though it’s also a record that pushes out the songs to abstract places. Billie Davies has been around a lot of places doing a lot of different things, but on this record, she seems to have settled into the comfy environs of modern jazz.
~S Victor Aaron, Something Else!
"all about Love.", The Billie Davies Trio
Jazz compressed into small places, as it is in drummer Billie Davies' trombone trio, often gives the most unpredictable yet satisfying results. Piano-less trios are nothing new, but one lead by a trombonist, while still being comparable to Sonny Rollins' tenor saxophone trios of the 1950s, certainly is. Trombonist Tom Bone Ralls is careful to fill any space, avoiding the overuse of slurs and glissandos. The collection of originals and standards is largely introspective and influenced by saxophonist John Coltrane's horizontal method of improvisation. This Coltrane strain is most evident on Mongo Santamaria's "Afro Blue" and its reprise—long a staple of Coltrane's late period catharsis. Davies provides polyrhythmic propellant to bassist Oliver Steinberg, while Ralls plays the harmonic head straight. His solo progressively becomes more abstract without becoming dissonant and distant. Steinberg sets up the hypnotic mantra that is punctuated by Davies and takes advantage of the space provided judiciously before the theme reemerges. "Afro Blue Too" revisits the tune, adding sharper corners to the melody and rhythm while softening the solo spaces. This provides for a nice contrast on this spare instrumental recording.
THIS IS BOOKS MUSIC
~C. Michael Bailey, All About Jazz
The Billie Davies Trio’s “all about Love.”
The music created by Billie Davies (drums), Oliver Steinberg (bass), and Tom Bone Ralls (trombone) on all above Love. (self-released) sounds like that cool “after hours” jazz you seek and want to find at 3 or 4 in the morning when you motel smells like cigarettes and ass, you’re hungry, and you’re not tired just yet. Yet you enter a nightclub or basement at the end of town, it still smells like cigarettes and ass but you feel like you’re in familiar territory. This is love, this is jazz, this is life. This is music. The choice of songs played by Billie Davies and her trio are quite good, including versions of “Naima”, “Afro Blue”, “Stella By Starlight”, and “Jean Pierre”. Davies’ drumming is the anchor behind these, but to hear what Ralls and Steinberg do with the trombone and bass respectively… again, it feels like “after hours” jazz and you may want to listen to this with your eyes closed, wear a blindfold, or simply wait until 2 or 3am in the morning to get a true feel for what they’re trying to create. It’s intimate, moving, and powerful, and those who enjoy their jazz in trio settings will lap this up deliciously. Thank you to Davies, Ralls, and Steinberg for doing this for the Love.
~John Book, This is Books Music
The Billie Davies Trio All About Love Cobra Basement 2012
After reviewing releases for well over two years now I know what I like...namely an artist that can take "old school" and flip the sound into "new cool." The Billie Davies Band does this as well as any trio around but with literally bare bones instrumentation they run on passion, ingenuity and raw talent that ensembles twice their size spend an entire career looking for.
All About Love hits the streets on 09/25/12 and what we have are some iconic classics given a more contemporary spin while maintaining the integrity of the original. When most people think trio they think piano, bass and drums. Here we have Billie Davies on drums, Tom Bone Ralls on trombone and Oliver Steinberg holding things together on bass. Organic, eclectic, or jazz minimalism it works! Outside of a little reverb on the trombone the recording is literally live in the studio, as raw and real as live jazz gets. Opening with "Stella By Starlight" we have a straight ahead swing, lyrical driven and with spot on phrasing. While the lineup may be somewhat eclectic the accessibility of the music should satisfy those that often say, "I don't like jazz but I like that..." The John Coltrane classic "Naima" is dialed back to an expressive and soulful ballad showcasing the virtuoso talent that is Tom Bone Ralls. Steinberg is rock steady on bass and the deceptively subtle nuances from Davies on drums help take the musical train straight to the station. "Afro Blue" has a nice syncopated pop and harmonic direction.
What is incredibly refreshing with All About Love is that the music is allowed to flow freely. Nothing is self indulgent, pretentious or over blown but instead Davies as most good drummers will do - pushes the music front and center. There is all most nothing that is not enjoyable with this release. The organic sound is reminiscent of the work of Rudy Van Gelder which should give you an idea of just how pristine the quality of this disc really is. The trio doesn't hang out in odd meter or subscribe to the speed is king school of music theory. The Billie Davies Trio plays it straight, when you are that good you can do that.
Billie Davies has gone from Bohemian jazz gypsy to a formidable talent in jazz drumming. The irony is that her interest was peaked by the Phil Collins pop smash "In The Air Tonight." Bottom line is it is not the road taken but reaching your destination as a musician that counts. A superior release that hits all its marks perfectly!
~Brent Black, Critical Jazz
The Billie Davies Trio – All About Love
Going back in time, finding some wonderful classics, and giving them a contemporary/improvisational twist. It gives her the greatest pleasure to be able to bring back these particular songs with a new perspective to an audience.
I would describe this music as “contemporary modal with a romantic twist” or perhaps “neo-Cool Jazz”. Very much like Freddie Hubbard, Tony Williams, Wayne Shorter, Miles Davis, Eric Dolphy & Jackie McLean but in 2012. Lyrical, good phrasing, nice rhythms.
(feat. Tom Bone Ralls, Oliver Steinberg & Billie Davies)
~S.H. Watkins, Jazz USA
COBRA BASEMENT - BILLIE DAVIES TRIO/All About Love
Nothing new here folks, but a lot of nice playing along the way. Cool school post bop improv, live work outs on jazz standards fill the disc and fill the time nicely. Playing together in the same room in the same take, old school style, this is a nice back in the day throw back jazz trio set with a lady drummer leading the way. Fun stuff that doesn't aim to change the world, just make it a nicer place.
~Chris Spector, Midwest Record
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