The album opens with a four-note motif modulated into different keys to introduce "Jo-ann." Flugelhorn, bass clarinet and tenor sax come in, playing an interesting counterpoint curiously reminiscent of Elgar. Bassist Elvind Opsvik lays down an effective line and solo before the piece gives way to a fairly conventional feature for Tony Malaby on tenor. He plays well enough and Davis's comping is solid; it's just that you get the sense they could be doing much the same type of playing off of almost any tune in a fake book and the momentum built from the intriguing beginning is somewhat dissipated. The free workout "Argyha" fares better, building to a furious climax with throbbing work from Opsvik and drummer Jeff Davis, serialist mayhem from Ms. Davis and some good skronk from Malaby.
The balance of the album proceeds in much the same fashion. The compositional element is really solid, but too many of the solos seem to be there for their own sake and not because the songs are demanding them. A few of the tracks overstay their welcome a bit, such as the aptly named "Endless," (another piece is called "The Epic;" extra credit is given for self-deprecation) which charges on right past what would've been a perfectly acceptable terminal point.
Lifespan is a good album that could have been that much better if the artists had shown a little more restraint. Kris Davis gives us eight well thought-out original compositions here. Each piece will engage your attention, though they do not all manage to hold it for their entire duration