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Eric Revis: In Memory Of Things Yet Seen
Bassist Eric Revis is a heavyweight in more than one respect. He is doing the improbable in a remarkable way, thereby ignoring collectively imposed and maintained demarcations at work. Armed with his physically very present, raw and vibrant bass sound he beats his track into the realms of freely improvised music. He made his debut as a leader in 2012 with Parallax, on the authoritative Lisboan Clean Feed label, with a dream team of Jason Moran, Ken Vandermark and Nasheet Waits. His 2013 follow-up was an even more surprising trio with pianist Kris Davis and many peoples’ favorite drummer, Andrew Cyrille.
The contrasts of that trio’s City of Asylum proved to be a revelation; not resting on his laurels, however, Revis has already set up his next step with a high caliber 2+2 constellation that also includes percussionist Chad Taylor, tenor saxophonist Bill McHenry and altoist Darius Jones—a lineup capable of drilling through thick boards, which actually happens on its bold debut recording, In Memory Of Things Yet Seen.
Crazy things are claimed in jazz-related writing at times, but a link between Branford Marsalis and Peter Brotzmann is no longer fictitious because Revis has played and recorded with both musicians—nine albums with Marsalis and, as a unifying matter of fact, Marsalis steps in on two pieces of this extremely fine, grinding album.
Revis is not a man to balance styles; how would such a teetering affair then sound? He plays raw and uninhibited, direct, and always full-force. As a leader, he does not primarily act as harmonizer, support player or anchor; instead, by sparking, firing up and energizing, he makes the dust fly. The nuance is in the rhythmic fine tuning; it’s in the interaction with all the greatly contrasting voices that this music’s branding happens. These contrasts are used by the quartet in an impressive way, with high intensity and various temperatures as fervid, truthful sounds emerge. Revis’ attack is not unlike that of Howlin’ Wolf , the legendary blues giant. It is the primal force of the voice and soul which is manifest, far from stylized sadness, loneliness and a smoldering longing, revealed here in thirteen pieces that are equally striking and beautiful.
Only two of the thirteen pieces—”Hits” and “FreeB”—are entirely improvised. “The Tulpa Chronicles” is spread over the whole album in three parts. The first part is the album’s starting point, its ostinato vibraphone opening up a wide horizon after which the fierce roars, whacks and spanks of “Hits” tumble and fly through space. “Son Seals” is a fast, M-Base-like blues with brilliant expansion and contraction movements. It is superb how Revis and Taylor prepare the soil from which the two horns emerge with full thrust. “Somethin’s Cookin'” is an apt title for the subsequent piece that, at times, comes across as a mixture of blowing Tibetan and mariachi horns.
The range of variations across the album is remarkable . “Unknown” also is a killer piece, swinging hard and raw. “The Tulip Chronicles II” is short, with great resilience and is, above all, catchy and danceable. “Voices” is a slow burner filled with Jones and Henry’s full, raw saxophone sounds, with no place for sentimental moods. “Earned A Lesson” starts with a superb bass intro and possesses significant content, including a New Orleans second-line rhythm. “The Shadow World” is the decisive step to get the last slumber-heads awake. Reminiscent of Sun Ra, the qualities of all four musicians accumulate here in a highly intense way. “Hold My Snow Cone” is a slow blues, with Jones taking the torch from Arthur Blythe . The concluding “If You Are Lonesome, Then You’re Not Alone” is a hymn or gospel of the future, carried by a striking saxophone duet. Catching upcoming live performances of this group is highly recommended.
Track Listing: The Tulpa Chronicles I; Hits; Son Seal; Somethin’s Cookin’ ; Unknown; The Tulpa Chronicles II; Voices; A Lesson Earned; The Shadow World; Hold My Snow Cone; FreeB; The Tulpa Chronicles III; If Your Are Lonesome, the You’re Not Alone
Personnel: Eric Revis: double-bass; Chad Taylor: drums, vibraphone; Bill McHenry: tenor saxophone; Darius Jones: alto saxophone
Record Label: Clean Feed Records
Among the notable albums released this year was Wayne Shorter’s “Without a Net.”
By NATE CHINEN
Published: December 13, 2013
- 1. Craig Taborn Trio “Chants” (ECM) The deep, seductive intelligence at work in “Chants,” Craig Taborn’s first piano trio album in a dozen years, suggests an ocean of influences distilled into an original potion. Unpacking his terse compositions in communion with the bassist Thomas Morgan and the drummer Gerald Cleaver, Mr. Taborn gives each oblique maneuver a purpose, and often a flicker of intrepid grace.
2. Wayne Shorter Quartet“Without a Net” (Blue Note) Thepostbop sage Wayne Shorter has made volatility a trademark of his quartet, to the extent that its concerts can feel like enigmas to be parsed. Here we only have choice moments that put his saxophone at the center of a drama shaped by developing insights from Danilo Pérez on piano, John Patitucci on bass and Brian Blade on drums.
3. Bill Callahan “Dream River” (Drag City) On his strongest album (and there have been some really good ones lately), Mr. Callahan applies his dark, dry baritone to a bundle of songs about love and death and luck and motion, using ordinary language to extraordinary ends. His ruminative deadpan meets a deceptively simple backdrop: some masterly guitar work, some drums and flute, all put together with sly serenity.
4. Andy Bey “The World According to Andy Bey” (HighNote) Mr. Bey, a songbook savant now approaching his mid-70s, has already recorded memorably in the solo piano-and-vocal format. But this album finds him in extravagantly fine form, not only embroidering standards but also singing his own perceptive and idiosyncratic songs in a still-limber voice that should be registered with the Smithsonian.
5. Ashley Monroe “Like a Rose” (Warner Bros. Nashville) A quiet stunner of a country album, full of traditional-sounding songs that refuse to recoil from uncomfortable realities; the title phrase holds the implication of a survival badge. Ms. Monroe’s singing is soft and clear, subversive precisely in its sweetness.
6. Dave Douglas Quintet “Time Travel” (Greenleaf) The trumpeter Dave Douglas formed a smart new quintet last year, and along with a beautiful album of hymns, it created this knockabout winner, capitalizing on the diversity of a roster with the saxophonist Jon Irabagon, the pianist Matt Mitchell, the bassist Linda Oh and the drummer Rudy Royston.
7. Eric Revis, Kris Davis, Andrew Cyrille “City of Asylum” (Clean Feed) Three generations of improvisers from far-flung aesthetic coordinates — Mr. Revis, a bassist; Ms. Davis, a pianist; and Mr. Cyrille, a drummer — devoted most of their first album to a free-form expedition, testing every premise and taking nothing for granted.
8. Chris Potter “The Sirens” (ECM) Heroic proficiency has never been a problem for Mr. Potter, the tenor saxophonist. Impressively, this album, inspired by “The Odyssey,” is more a study in reflection than exertion, with exquisite ballad work and plenty of shifting texture, much of it conjured by a pair of brilliant pianists, Craig Taborn and David Virelles.
9. Earl Sweatshirt “Doris” (Tan Cressida/Columbia) Not the only painfully self-aware album this year by a rapper of intoxicating skills — just the least opportunistic, and the most credibly human. The brisk wordplay, the stoner cadence, the stylish production, the tightknit crew: none of it puts Mr. Sweatshirt at ease, and for now that’s just fine.
10. Cécile McLorin Salvant “WomanChild” (Mack Avenue) This American debut of an arresting young jazz vocalist allows for comparison to Abbey Lincoln and Sarah Vaughan (and for bonus points, Valaida Snow), but that’s not its end game. Ms. Salvant has designs on a trickster’s kind of traditionalism — and the right trio, led by the scholarly pianist Aaron Diehl, to play her straight man.
Eric Revis/City of Asylum (Clean Feed): Establishing an intense state of collective concentration with the downbeat that begins the first track, it’s simple to see how Eric Revis has remained a stalwart within The Branford Marsalis Quintet for sixteen years. With Andrew Cyrille on drums and Kris Davis on piano, the bassist makes great strides in developing his own personality with this album as the three musicians usually prefer to dive directly into the dissection of rhythm and melody; this approach makes for challenging listening to be sure, but for the listener who relishes detailed improvisation, a most rewarding experience
★ Bill McHenry Quartet (Tuesday through Oct. 27) The tenor saxophonist Bill McHenry finds a place for rugged insight in this hard-driving but elastic band, featuring the pianist Orrin Evans, the bassist Eric Revis and the drummer Andrew Cyrille. Last year the group released “La Peur du Vide,” an engrossing album recorded during a previous engagement in this room. At 8:30 and 10:30 p.m., Village Vanguard, 178 Seventh Avenue South, at 11th Street, West Village, (212) 255-4037, villagevanguard.com; $25 cover, with a one-drink minimum. (Chinen)
Perhaps no club in the city upholds the jazz tradition better than Smalls. But in doing so, they have also forged a new tradition through the younger generations of musicians who play there. With that in mind, the booking of bassist Eric Revis’ quartet (Sep. 4th-5th) was not as surprising as perceived initially. Yes, Revis may be Branford Marsalis or Kurt Rosenwinkel’s bassist but he also works with Andrew Cyrille and Peter Brötzmann, subverters of the tradition to be sure. His own quartet was filled with equally strong personalities: saxophonists Darius Jones and Bill McHenry, with drummer Chad Taylor alongside the leader in the rhythm section. And tradition is a funny thing. To close the first set of the second night, nearly an hour of music that included Revis originals from the group’s forthcoming album and a tune by free jazz legend Sunny Murray, the quartet played “The Shadow World” by Sun Ra, followed by Johnny Hodges’ “Wiggle Awhile”, two sides of ‘60s large ensemble jazz. And in assembling his frontline, Revis couldn’t find two more complementary and respectful-of-the- tradition players than Jones and McHenry, who navigated the tense arrangements with impassioned focus, never battling each other but fusing into a covalent voice. During the Sun Ra, Jones began bleating with such fury, he sounded like a sheep being electrocuted, followed by McHenry’s foghorn tenor solo. Anyone who came in during the finger-snappin’ closer had no idea what they missed. – Andrey Henkin
Eric Revis, City of Asylum, with Kris Davis and Andrew Cyrille
Bassist Eric Revis assembles an all-star piano trio and turns them loose on City of Asylum (Clean Feed 277). Acutely inspired collective improvisation is the order of the day. Revis and his very advanced bass forays, the increasingly ever-present Kris Davis on piano and the fantastic drumming of Andrew Cyrille hold forth for a really nice set that includes one by Jarrett and one by Monk along with a series of very accomplished and adventuresome free journeys.I don’t believe I’ve heard Kris Davis sound so continually brimming over with ideas and so poised at the same time. This one is a real ear opener for me in that. Eric is right up there with inventive all-over ideas. And Andrew sounds so beautiful, you could certainly listen just to him and get much to appreciate. He plays out-of-time phrasings that perfectly complement the musical proceedings, do not repeat and are models of inventive freetime.
This one is a piano trio triumph in the free zone. It makes me smile! You must hear it.
City of Asylum (clean feed)
The bassist Eric Revis anchors two of the best small groups in contemporary jazz, namely the quartets of Branford Marsalis and Kurt Rosenwinkel. These are splendid, hard-hitting ensembles that frequently deal with the rigors of elegantly structured compositions and the thrilling intersections of melody and harmony.
But as the leader of his trio on City Asylum, Revis takes his own music into the zone where notes and musical gestures roam more freely. As Ethan Iverson relates in his liner notes, Revis had a hunch that there would be some strong musical empathy between himself, the young outward bound pianist (and expatriate Canadian) Kris Davis and free-jazz drumming elder Andrew Cyrille. The three of them met one day in April 2012 in a New York studio and set to recording what would become City Of Asylum.
Seven of the disc’s 10 tracks are collective improvisations. The trio leaps into the unknown, connecting musical gestures from the very large to the very small, from rumbling swirls of sound, skittering lines or arcane chords, visceral plucked bass declarations and harsh bowing. In other cases, the music is clearly built on a proposition, such as the short arco ostinato that begins Sot Avast or the prolonged interplay of gentle piano and bass that makes up the title track. In other cases, the musicians are playing more in parallel, or they’re equally at the forefront of the proceedings.
Above all, for all its abstraction, the music is immediate, bracing, taut and spirited. Two clips from a January 2013 gig by Revis’ trio reflect its creativity and focus:
Three tracks on the CD are more formal compositions, but they’re interpreted very loosely. Gallop’s Gallop, a lesser-known but engaging Thelonious Monk tune, is expertly teased at and deconstructed. Question is a slow, open, swinging theme by Revis that features as much interaction as the free material. The spare rendition of the Keith Jarrett ballad Prayer is one of the disc’s still points, along with its disc-closing title track.
For jazz listeners who know Revis best from his sideman work, these more conventionally structured tracks might be good places to start. But they lead surely to an appreciation of the more unfettered and ceasely invigorating playing that makes up the rest of
City Of Asylum.