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.
Eric Revis, City of Asylum
Distinctively wise and fearless in all the right places
Andrew Cyrille is a 72-year-old drummer who spent a decade stoking the fiery eruptions of avant-garde pianist Cecil Taylor; he was arguably Taylor’s most ingenuous and empathetic foil. Kris Davis is a 30-something pianist with a reputation for mixing Taylor’s virtuosity with the elliptical phrasing and harmonic sophistication of Andrew Hill and the epigrammic wit of Thelonious Monk. The 46-year-old bassist Eric Revis presciently thought he and this pair could excel at collective improvisation, and City of Asylum is the consistently marvelous result, tapping into a shared intuitive wellspring that spans generations. It is distinctively wise and fearless in all the right places.
There are three covers — Monk’s obscure “Gallop’s Gallop,” Keith Jarrett’s “Prayer” and Revis’s own “Question” — but the nimble excitement and uncanny communication present in the seven improvisations are the real story on City of Asylum. “Vadim” is highlighted by the way Cyrille’s cymbals liquefy an otherwise-percussive song. “Egon” finds Revis in especially fine form, sawing and slapping his bow. On “Sot Avast,” Revis grinds out notes that recall thick ropes straining on a ship at sea before unearthing a low, growling riff topped off with a high-pitched accent, which Davis then eclipses with her own looming vamp. It is a forceful, unhesitating dynamically changeable song full of portent and beauty. The following improvisation, “For Bill Traylor,” is much different, an exercise in pace, patience and delicacy that is more resolute than gentle, with gorgeously rendered thickening and paring of the timbre. Revis, who released Parallax with Jason Moran, Ken Vandermark and Nasheet Waits late last year, now has two masterworks in six months time to his credit.
CITY OF ASYLUM
The performance to write home about at this year’s Winter Jazzfest was a freely improvised set by the bassist Eric Revis, the pianist Kris Davis and the drummer Andrew Cyrille: musicians of intrepid poise, foraging together in deep communion. “City of Asylum” (Clean Feed) offers a comparable experience. Mr. Revis, who has earned a reputation for hard-swinging brio in the Branford Marsalis Quartet, works here with mystery and indirection. Mr. Cyrille, an avant-garde eminence in his 70s, and Ms. Davis, an ascendant talent in her 30s, explore a language largely defined by common touchstones, like the pianists Cecil Taylor and Andrew Hill.
The album has three proper compositions — a slinky Revis original (“Question”), a Thelonious Monk tune (“Gallop’s Gallop”) and a hymn by Keith Jarrett (“Prayer”) — but its lifeblood is the uncharted territory, spread across seven tracks that cohere as a whole. What that material reveals is the quality of the listening among the players, an abstract ideal made nearly tangible.
I am very pleased to announce my second release on Clean Feed Records, City of Asylum. This upcoming release, featuring Kris Davis and Andrew Cyrille, exemplifies what Nate Chinen describes as an ensemble whose music is “entangled with an avant-garde tradition stretching back to Andrew Hill and Cecil Taylor in the 60’s but also flush with a sense of discovery that seems…essentially youthful.”
Published: February 11, 2013
Whether you have no experience with the Godfather of free jazz or you measure your Peter Brötzmann CD and LP collection in linear feet, this 5CD box curated by the German saxophonist is either a great introduction to or an affirmation of his music and influence.
Organized on the occasion of his 70th birthday, these four days of performances in November 2011, also marked the 25th anniversary of the Unlimited Festival in Wels, Austria. Brötzmann did not assemble a retrospective of his ouevre, as there were no recreations of the fabled Machine Gun (FMP, 1968) sessions, Globe Unity Orchestra, or Last Exit band (having said farewell to Sonny Sharrock in 1994), nor did he play duos with Han Bennink. He did, however, display his current tastes in music which over the last twenty years have embraced musicians not only from Europe but also from Chicago and Japan.
Brötzmann’s Chicago Tentet performed twice at the festival and two lengthy pieces are presented here. The first is an eerie 26-minute performance with Danish saxophonist John Tchicai, who passed away within a year of this recording. He can be heard chanting “Everything can happen from one second to the next.” The second was the Tentet’s “Concert For Fukushima” performance with guests Otomo Yoshihide, Akira Sakata, Michiyo Yagi and Toshinori Konda. This release only captures Yagi’s koto performance, about a quarter of the two hour performance. Will there be more of this music to follow?
While Brötzmann is featured prominently here, he leads only ten out of the eighteen groups. He also choses to present his current listening pleasures. The highlights of the non-Brötzmann groups heard are several. Joe McPhee’s saxophone and trumpet accompanies Morroccian Gnawa musican Maâllem Mokhtar Gania, Fred Lonberg-Holm and Michael Zerang for some African trance music. Saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, perhaps the heir to Brötzmann’s sound, dabbles in bits and bites of improvisation and electronics with Dieb13 and Martin Siewert. Masahiko Satoh delivers a rollicking and cogent solo piano piece that swaps Cecil Taylor runs with stride tones and fragments of classical delivery. Brötzmann’s influence can also be heard in the koto, cello and guzheng (a Chinese plucked zither) trio of Michiyo Yagi, Okkyung Lee and Xu Fengxia, as the three blast off into a freeform ethereal sound. The highlight of the non-Brötzmann ensembles might be the DKV Trio of Hamid Drake, Kent Kessler and Ken Vandermark augmented by Mats Gustafsson, Massimo Pupillo and Paal Nilssen-Love. The trio-cum-sextet sketch a restrained improvisation that is more listening than playing, before their rocked-out climax of sound.
The festival goers and connoisseurs of the great man’s work are treated to various permutations and combinations of his music. His three-saxophone improvising band, Sonore, with Ken Vandermark and Mats Gustafson, marks its tenth anniversary working together here, as does the relatively new saxophone/piano/drums trio of Brotzmann, Masahiko Satoh and Takeo Moriyama. His acclaimed duo with Chicago vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz is augmented here by drummer Sabu Toyozumi. The percussionist adds locomotion to the duo, plus he spikes the intensity.
Another new-ish Brötzmann saxophone trio, with bassist Eric Revis and drummer Nasheet Waits, is the most conventional approach heard here. Although it is far from conservative, the thirty-seven minute piece might be a nod to American free jazz as opposed to the European approach Brötzmann has championed most of his career.
The emotional and aural high points of this box set are the two pieces, one by Brotzmann’s electric band Hairy Bones and the other by the African influenced ensemble that reunites him with bassist Bill Laswell. The latter piece includes Hamid Drake and guembri musican Maâllem Mokhtar Gania. While this piece hypnotizes the ear for nearly fifty-two minutes, the Hairy Bones improvisation clocking in at twenty-one minutes is an exhausting barrage of sound and energy. Toshinori Kondo’s electrified trumpet and Masimo Pupillo’s electric bass battle Brötzmann and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love for stage preeminence. The music is both exhilarating and exhausting.
If six hours of music could possibly leave you wanting, this collection does.