Eric Revis – City of Asylum (CF 277)
Bassist Eric Revis is one of the busiest musicians in the world. As I write this (7/08/13), he’s on tour in Europe with both the Branford Marsalis Quartet and the Kurt Rosenwinkel New Quartet. He’s also a charter member of the Tarbaby trio with Orrin Evans and Nasheet Waits making him a charter member of the LIKEMIND Collective as well (Part 1 is here).
“City of Asylum” (Clean Feed Records) share its name with a Community Arts Organization in Pittsburgh, PA (www.cityofasylumpittsburgh.org/). It’s Revis’s 4th CD as a leader and features drum master Andrew Cyrille (born 1939) and the impressive young pianist Kris Davis. The bassist brought the musicians together and they created the program on this CD. Composed of 7 group improvisations and one piece each from Thelonious Monk (“Gallop’s Gallop”), Keith Jarrett (“Prayer”), and Revis’s “Question”, the music is alive with interaction, possibilities, ideas and quite far from cliche. The bassist has a “large” tone that blends well with Mr. Cyrille’s fluid percussion. Ms. Davis is one of the stronger improvisers in modern music, her ability to move in and out of the flow of the music, her striking choice of chords and melodic phrases, her percussive attack, all keep the listener on the edge of his seat (physically and mentally). There is nothing “standard” about her approach (you can say the same about Messrs. Cyrille and Revis as well) so these pieces feel “alive”. There are tens of thousands of covers of Monk tunes but few with the animation that this Trio imbues the song with. Mr. Cyrille creates a wall of percussion while the bassist, more often than not, plays counterpoint. The give-and-take of the bass and drums in the opening moments of “For Bill” is a fine example of how both musicians set up the dialogue and lay the table for Ms. Davis. She reacts to as well as acts on what her partners are creating. This piece is so quiet, at times, one must lean into the speakers, yet Mr. Cyrille never relinquishes the beat – in fact, he sets the level of intensity for the others. This music is neither heartless nor humorless. Witness “Harry Partch Laments the Dying of the Moon…and Then Laughs” – with Ms. Davis creating a “motor-rhythm” and Mr. Cyrille pushing an prodding beneath, the bassist creates a mysterious sound as he bows throughout the track. Revis sets a furious pace on his unaccompanied opening to “Prayer” and, when the drummer enters, one can hear the musicians “conversing”. Ms. Davis plays with slowing down the piece, creating a solo that rises with the bass in pursuit. The lovely melody line the pianist creates on “Traylor”is reminiscent of Paul Simon’s “An American Tune” – the drummer frames the piano beautifully with his cymbals and sparse use of the snare drum while the bassist creates a melody that moves in tandem with the piano.
“City of Asylum” is filled with with riches, a group conversation that is open and intimate. One can sense that as Kris Davis, Andrew Cyrille and Eric Revis continue to explore this collaboration, their interactions will become ever more expansive. This CD is excellent yet one must see them live to complete the connection between musician, music and listener.