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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Eric Revis 11:11 - Parallax (Clean Feed 2012) ***½

Reviewed by Joe

What a great pleasure to see the fruits of the tree bloom in such a productive way! Eric Revis for all that don't know him, is the bassist from Branford Marsalis' Quartet. That group had, or has, a very strong tradition of experimenting with mainstream jazz forms, but somehow they've never really stepped out of the comfort zone of post Ornette territory. In the case of Eric Revis, it seems that he is prepared to step out of the comfort zone. This record groups together four very strong players, and something of an interesting 'super-group', in modern jazz terms. It's great to see Ken Vandermark playing with the NY (younger) jazz big league, something that I hadn't expected to see. The strong connection between the players, and in particular the rhythm section of piano, bass and drums. Revis, Moran and Waits have been playing together on and off in different settings for many years, this shows in the music which is powerful and deeply swinging. Ken Vandermark is someone whose already been working in areas similar to this with a myriad of groups such as his own Vandermark 5. His playing is particularly strong on this record, helped by the very modern, tight, and forward thinking group.

The Music:
Some of the material is written - the themes that is - although to my ears, most of the music is improvised, or based round loose structures. Hyperthrall, Celestial Hobo, IV, ENJK and Parallax, seem collective pieces, everyone contributing to the music as it develops. Even on the old chestnut I'm Going to Sit Right Down .. the group takes the theme as just a backbone. But there are a few 'written' pieces. MXR, Spit and Dark Net are three such tunes with complex melodies and interlocking rhythms, providing the group with strong material to forge their improvisations. On other pieces such as Edgar, the music starts with no structure, in this instance building towards a limping waltz (with some 2/4 thrown in to keep it limping?). Spit is a driving tune that swings away giving Jason Moran and Ken Vandermark a chance to test out modern free-bop territory. There's even a blues from Jelly Roll Morton's repertoire, Whinin' Boy Blues. This piece gives the group a chance to get down in a free and raunchy fashion, probably an excellent live tune!

I did wonder if it holds together as a record and I guess it does. Due to the way the tunes and improvisations are put together the record feels a little like a suite, although I doubt that's the idea. There are 12 tunes, but one wonders if fewer tunes and longer impros might have yielded some spectacular results?  However, there's no weak points, and I have the feeling that if Eric Revis keeps this group together and develops it further it could be a very powerful unit. This record sounds to me an excellent starting point, great musicians, fine playing, some real high points in group playing, and more important massive potential. Certainly recommended to all those interested in hearing New York meet Chicago for some powerful music making.

Here's a video of the group at the Jazz Gallery really going for it. Unfortunately the record doesn't have this energy, but what the heck, that's what going to see live music is all about!

The group is made up of Eric Revis on bass, Ken Vandermark; reeds, Jason Moran; piano, Nasheet Waits; drums.

© stef