For jazz musicians, playing at the Village Vanguard in New York is a big deal. It does not just require brilliance, but worthiness of a stage that has showcased legends. Pianist-composer Kris Davis has certainly earned her spot. She had already established herself as one of the most exciting and innovative artists of her generation when she released her first record with her group, "Diatom Ribbons," in 2019. That same year, she became the associate program director of creative development for the Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice at the Berklee College of Music.

After Davis' big night at the Village Vanguard in 2020 got canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, she finally made it back. The record, "Diatom Ribbons Live at the Village Vanguard," is out now. Davis joined GBH's All Things Considered host Arun Rath last week to talk about the experience. This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Davis: It's such an honor to be able to, first of all, play at the Vanguard and then to record it with all of the heroes. I mean, if you go to the Vanguard, you see on the wall these pictures of Joe Henderson and Jerry Allen and Bill Evans. All these people that have played at the Vanguard, recorded at the Vanguard. And so, of course, it feels very special and spiritual to be there playing and knowing that these people that I just revere had to have done the same.

Rath: And having done it now, what was it like? I mean, there's got to be something special about the Vanguard. It's this weird, cramped space. You can feel the subway going under. Do you have any better sense now of what it is about the Vanguard that seems to draw this out of performers?

Davis: Well, it was funny because when I started to play and the band started to play, I started hearing these other recordings in my head just because of the sound in the room. It's fairly dry sounding, and it started to take me back to like, Bill Evans live at the Village Vanguard, and I got a little distracted. Then I thought, "Oh, no, I need to just focus on what I'm doing, focus on the other musicians and just do what I do." So it took me a second, but I got through it, and I think it went well.

Rath: Something really interesting here. You have a DJ in the band, Val Jeanty, on turntables and electronics. Not typically something you hear in jazz ensembles.

Davis: Yeah, it's interesting. Like in most of my projects, I'm usually writing for the people that are playing the music. And because this was my first time working with a DJ, I was trying to figure out how can I write for this person and what they do.

I met Val when I was doing some concerts for Geri Allen, [after] she passed away, with Terri Lyne Carrington. And she was using some of Geri's voice to make a connection between the music and the moment of reflecting and paying tribute to Geri. I thought, "Oh, that's that's really cool. Maybe I'll try and do that with some artists that are meaningful to me" and try to weave it into the written material that I was writing for the rest of the group. So I started listening to interviews of people that I love to try to find things that were meaningful, that connected.

Rath: It is really kind of affecting hearing these voices in the music. Who are some of the people that we're hearing?

Davis: We're hearing voices of [Karlheinz] Stockhausen and of Paul Bley, of Sun Ra, all sorts of interview clips. And some of them are long — like the Sun Ra clip is fairly long and sort of meanders in terms of the story he's telling and how it interacts with the music.

Stockhausen: Well, see this music is from another dimension. And it really does effect people. In Chicago, I was accused of hypnotizing people and all kinds of things, but it's not that. It's really, you know, you have food for thought, and that's for your mind. Well, this is real soul music. It's not the kind you dance by, it's for your spirit. ...

Davis: The Stockhausen quotes that I used are from a lecture that he did about intuitive music. It's a kind of music that he wrote where the artists that he was playing with would use his own language and improvise with it based on some text. So you hear him talking about playing in the rhythm of your thinking, of your intuition. So the music sort of flows in and out of that and creates these repetitive things that we're also playing with as we get these directives from Bell through Stockhausen.

Rath: Most of the tunes on this record are your own compositions, but it opens with a piece by Ronald Shannon Jackson, the wild, free jazz drummer, composer and bandleader. He's so often overlooked, though. What drew you to this piece?

Davis: Well, I first heard Ronald Shannon Jackson on the Ornette Coleman album "Dancing in Your Head," and that's one of my favorite all-time, 10 desert island albums. And then a producer that I work with, David Breskin, also produced some of Ronald Shannon Jackson's recordings. So just before I was making "Diatom Ribbons," I was going deep into Ronald Shannon Jackson's music, and I just fell in love with this piece, "Alice in the Congo," and thought it would be a cool piece to incorporate into the title. It's interesting because the original recording doesn't have piano on it and so I was trying to figure what my role might be if I was going to write an arrangement of this tune. I just love how there's like two bars of repetitive looping and groove going on. Then on top of that, there's this melody that's played very freely over this groove that's happening, and that's something I've incorporated in my own music in the past. I just love that feeling of freedom but still rooted in groove. So I think that was really the thing that drew me to this piece in the first place.

Rath: That's brilliant. Kris, it's been great talking with you. Thank you for the conversation and also for that for the great music and the really important work you're doing.

Davis: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.

"Diatom Ribbons Live at the Village Vanguard" is out now.