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.
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.”
“Downtown In The Rain”
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.