The sound of Eric Revis’ bass is one of modern jazz’s most fetching. His thumps and strums are full of feels, and with Ron St. Germain’s production enhancing their textural verities on this must-hear quintet date, they’re riveting enough to be deemed first among equals. In Revis’ hands, the bass, as well as the band, presents an orchestral character.
Slipknots Through a Looking Glass bolsters the 53-year-old’s rep as a cagey polyglot. You can sniff out a few of his intentions by the way he’s built the unit for his eighth album as a leader: out of essential cogs from previous iterations of his squad(s). Darius Jones and Bill McHenry graced In Memory of Things Yet Seen; Kris Davis lifted Sing Me Some Cry; Chad Taylor drove both of those impressive dates. Each participant revels in trouncing presumed stylistic demarcations while advancing the greater good. Like the U.S. Postal Service, they deliver to a variety of zip codes.
That means the saxophonists balance between rip-snort romps that conjure Griff and Jaw’s lyrical skyrockets and lilting passages à la Braxton and Rivers on Conference of the Birds (let it be known that Revis writes some of the prettiest stuff around). It means the pianist plinks prepared strings like feisty pan drums or rumbles like a rainy day at Andrew Hill’s house. It also means the drummer deploys ornery backbeats or aerated pulse patterns (Justin Faulkner sits at the traps for two tracks as well). Noirish allusions, poetic introspection, storms blowing in on “Shutter” and the sun breaking through on “ProByte”— Revis perpetually contours the action. And upsells the bass. Three discrete versions of the album’s ghostly title track find him exploring emotions with presto-chango elusiveness; try to grab ’em and they’re gone. It seems he’s most at home in a playground of contrasts, because that way he can reveal their hidden similarities.