At first blush, the word ‘Symphronica’ might draw attention to the wrong aspect of this music and that is gratuitous publicity for its creator. But when you listen to the record – my first experience of Ron Davis’ music – you get its significance no matter how quaint the title sounds. Ron Davis music cannot stay in one kind of idiom and you hear this throughout the disc. It floats somewhat easily from swing and rock, classical to a kind of jazzy idiom. The artificial barriers – and we are all sometimes guilty of creating them to define music – blur and then disappear as Davis’ music unfolds.
There is one danger in what Davis does and that is to move his music so close to a kind of kitschy pop that it can easily degenerate into something akin to a Tarantino-like pulp fiction. But Davis is much too clever and mindful of that to be sucked into elevator pop. He knows his music and its metaphors and idioms extremely well. As a composer, Davis spices things up with a judicious mix of ingredients to make a fine dish of things. It was Duke Ellington – and not me – who used cooking as a metaphor for music. Here I am following that line of reasoning to the T and when this is done we find that not only do the ingredients make a great multi-course meal but the chef and his assistants (the musicians) are top tier.
This is Toronto, Ontario, Canada after all. As Canadians we are diffident about our abilities, no matter how excellent we might be at what we do. Take for instance D’Hora, a striking title for a tune. It might have passed like a ship in the night had not the bassist Mike Downes turned it into something quite beautiful. Moreover, like a well-oiled machine the ensemble brings it to a very feisty life. So it is with the playing of violinist Jessica Deutsch, cellist Andrew Downing and of course Ron Davis who are especially wonderful on the music throughout this disc.
Ron Davis is also an ambitious composer. This is part of the reason why he writes expansively and for orchestral performance. There is no questioning the veracity of his work. Not on Pocket Symphronica or elsewhere. I like especially Presto with its diabolical swing and ensemble playing virtuosity. This is an outstanding example of the mixing of metaphors that Ron Davis does so well. Davis’ ballad written for his wife, the singer Daniela Nardi is also quite exquisite as is his faux-blues, Blues 54, with its strings that create a dangerously beautiful sound. So what will Ron Davis do with this sound that he has made almost proprietary? Let’s wait for his next album to show us where he’s going with it.
Track List: D’Hora; Gruvmuv; Fugue & Variations on Gaga and Poker Face; Danza Daniela; Presto; Blues 54; Classical Siddur Pesach; Pentuptimism; Love Song; Jaggy Dance; Jeanamora.
Personnel: Ron Davis: piano, Rhodes, Hammond B3; Kevin Barrett: electric, classical and acoustic guitars, banjo; Mike Downes: electric and acoustic bass; Roger Travassos: drums, percussion; Jessica Deutsch: violin (1, 3, 4, 7, 9, 11); Ben Plotnicj: violin (1, 3, 4, 7, 9, 11), viola (1, 2, 5, 6, 8, 10); Aline Homzy: violin (1, 2, 5, 6, 8, 10); Aleksander Gajic: violin (1, 2, 5, 6, 8, 10); Anna Atkinson: viola (1, 3, 4, 7, 9, 11); George Meanwell: cello (1, 3, 4, 7, 9, 11); Andrea Downing: cello (1, 2, 5, 6, 8, 10).
Record Label: Really Records
Release date: January 2016
Running time: 52:21
Buy music on: amazon