Eric Revis: Eric Revis: In Memory Of Things Yet Seen (CF 294)
Although the title to bassist Eric Revis’ quartet offering appears to pay homage to some of the early AACM documents (think pianist Muhal Richard Abrams’ unaccompanied manifesto Things To Come From Those Now Gone (Delmark, 1975)), the actuality is a different animal entirely. Having rung the changes since the acclaimed City of Asylum, Revis’ outfit acts primarily as a vehicle for exploring imaginative charts drawn from across the band, along with two free jazz classics and two group inventions, this time without a piano in sight. And with a resume extended from a longtime home base with Branford Marsalis to include dates with reedmen Peter Brotzmann and Ken Vandermark, Revis defies easy categorization.
That ethos persists when considering the baker’s dozen of cuts on this studio session, as the ensemble encompasses a wide range of terrain. With this end in mind Revis has assembled a versatile top notch cast. Alto saxophonist Darius Jones plies his customary blend of sweet sour tunefulness and atonal skronk, contrasting with the more muscular motif-driven legato of tenor saxophonist Bill McHenry. Drummer Chad Taylor handles whatever’s asked of him with graceful assurance, from rhythms either funky or intricate to balls to the wall pulsation.
In spite of the talent on hand, the fare remains less about solos which tend to be concise, and more about group interplay and mood. Nowhere is breadth of intent better illustrated than in the opening two tracks, where Taylor’s vibes infuse the wistful Satiesque “The Tulpa Chronicles I” framing the leader’s spare melodic variations, while the structured improv “Hits” commences with a clarion burst alternated with short explosive vignettes from each member before a final unruly collective. Revis revels in darting lines, hocketed themes (whereby a tune is shared between two or more instruments), and multiple layers of action, evidenced by the joyously awry “The Tulpa Chronicles II” and the vibrant “The Tulpa Chronicles III” which features an energetic arco workout by the bassist.
Of the two covers, Sun Ra’s “Shadow World” hews close to the version on Magic City (Saturn, 1966), featuring suitably extraplanetary shrieks by the two horns, as Taylor pummels to a frenetic crescendo, while Sunny Murray’s “Somethin’s Cookin'” juxtaposes slowly percolating saxophones against busy bass and drums. Revis’ erstwhile employer guests on the boppish “Unknown” inserting a knotty tenor outpouring into the buoyant limber swing, and again on the improvised “FreeB” joining a melee of bickering reeds crashing like waves on the shore. Overall there is almost too much to savor. Five numbers clock in at less than three minutes and even the longest is just over seven, so it would be great to hear them stretch out on all of this material in a concert setting.