Eric Revis – City of Asylum (CF 277)
Eric Revis has worked across a broad spectrum of jazz, from mainstream to free, from his emergence with Betty Carter in the ‘90s and tenure in the Branford Marsalis Quartet to recent collaborations with Peter Brötzmann and Ken Vandermark. While that kind of varied career testifies to competence and flexibility, there’s something far more compelling in Revis’ music: a sheer force of personality that demands outlet. Here he finds a kind of free-jazz middle ground in a trio with pianist Kris Davis and drummer Andrew Cyrille, playing together for the first time in a recording studio.
Recording a first meeting isn’t that unusual, but it’s particularly difficult in the space in which this group operates. Seven of the ten pieces played here are completely improvised (complemented by a Revis original and tunes by Monk and Keith Jarrett), but they are done so with a special ear for pattern and intuitive structure.
Revis’ bass playing is grounded: though he might take sudden flight into the upper register, he focuses on the low end, creating a solid foundation. The approach finds ideal partners in Davis and Cyrille, Revis’ equals in intensity and spontaneous structure. There’s a profound communication evident in trio music of genuinely equal parts. Working largely without composed structures reveals how fluent an improviser Davis is, playing with an exuberant virtuosity that invites comparison with Don Pullen and Marilyn Crispell. Cyrille, still the consummate free jazz drummer at 73, can generate sufficient force and form to suggest that the band itself is a kind of drum kit, a key to the empathy here in which every instrument sounds like the center of the band.
While the music is always intense, there’s also variety, ranging from the creative flights of “Vadim” to the percussive insistence of “St. Cyr”. For a group that’s so accomplished in a dense, rhythmic dynamism, the trio also whispers very well on the minimalist “Egon” and title track. It’s a creative contrast that bodes well for the trio’s further development.