Mobile since her birth in Singapore, composer, and saxophonist Caroline Davis (she/her) lives in Brooklyn, New York. Her debut album, Live Work & Play, was featured on All About Jazz’s best releases, and she was named one of JazzTimes’ Best New Artists in 2012. Her second album, Doors: Chicago Storylines, is an audio documentary that uniquely sets stories from Chicago's jazz scene from the 80s and 90s alongside her original music. In 2018, she won the Downbeat Critic’s Poll “rising star” in the alto saxophone category. Caroline’s third album, Heart Tonic, was released on Sunnyside Records to much acclaim in NPR, the New York Times, and DownBeat. Davis’ self-titled Alula, featuring Matt Mitchell and Greg Saunier, will be released on New Amsterdam Records in May of 2019.
She has shared musical moments with a diverse group of musicians, from jazz to improvised and composed music, recently including Matt Wilson, Lee Konitz, Angelica Sanchez, Matt Mitchell, and Billy Kaye. Her regular collaborations include Maitri, Whirlpool, and Persona (with Rob Clearfield). She has participated in several mentorship programs, including the International Association for Jazz Education’s Sisters in Jazz and the Kennedy Center’s Betty Carter Jazz Ahead. In March of 2019, she will be a composer-in-residence at the MacDowell Colony to write a set of new works based on the electrical activity of neurons in the brain.
For all my projects, I take care to design the music, hire the right performers, and work towards a message. My process involves reading articles, scribble stream-of-consciousness notes about the compositional tools, shape, and forms of each piece, and sitting down to write. For Heart Tonic, I focused on various types of arrhythmia to write the music after seeking out recordings of irregular heartbeats and speaking with patients who have this condition.
In May, I’m releasing an album of trio music (alto saxophone, synthesizers, drums) that was written in response to the vortex generator structure on most birds. I have developed a keen interest in the movements of birds, especially patterns of takeoff, flight, and landing, and the way the alula structure affects them. This work is continuing at a deeper level for the next album, which I am writing music for now.
In the immediate future, I intend to immerse myself in the study of neuron function in the brain and to improve my ability to hear/perform complex rhythms. My interest in the first topic developed when I received my PhD in Music Cognition in 2010. I want to understand how neuronal networks communicate, especially with respect to timing and motion, and develop music based on my findings. For the latter, I have been taking classes at Chhandayan Center on Indian systems of tonality and rhythm. With the help of the Jerome fellowship, I’ll be able to take private lessons and improve my abilities.
Photo by Jacob Hand.