Caroline Davis Credit: Jacob Hand

Saxophonist Caroline Davis was based in Chicago for seven years before relocating to New York in 2013, and her five years there have demanded serious adjustment. She’s spent much of that time gigging as a side person while forging new partnerships and developing new music of her own. Last month she revealed what she’s achieved since leaving on Heart Tonic (Sunnyside), the first recording she’s released under her own name since 2015’s Doors (Ears & Eyes), a session made with Chicago musicians and inspired by veteran Chicago musicians like Lin Halliday and Von Freeman. The title of the new record refers to her personal research on the human heart, a subject she began exploring after discovering her father had been diagnosed with arrhythmia. Some of the tunes draw upon ventricular rhythms as metrical devices—an idea previously explored by one of her mentors, fellow alto saxophonist (and Chicago native) Steve Coleman—and on the Wayne Shorter piece “Penelope” she deploys a pulse that is purposely similar to the beats of her father’s conidtion. Despite that thematic focus, the core of the music ultimately revolves around the connections she’s made with a new group of musicians who now surround her—though her ties to trumpeter Marquis Hill date back when they both lived and worked in Chicago. The quintet is rounded out by drummer Jay Sawyer, bassist Tamar Schmerling, and keyboardist Julian Shore, and together they shape tunes of impressive rhythmic elasticity and harmonic exploration on hard-swinging, dynamically explosive multipartite pieces such as “Constructs” (which shows the ongoing influence the classic Miles Davis Quintet with Wayne Shorter has had on Davis) or jittery, tension-fueled moments where the drummer seems to control everyone on a long string. I’m curious how the material will sound with the mostly midwestern band she’s leading tonight. From the quintet, only Sawyer will be joining Davis for the gig; trumpeter Russ Johnson, bassist John Tate, and keyboardist Ron Clearfield will round things out.   v