By Troy Collins
Although best known as the longstanding bassist for Branford Marsalis’ quartet, Eric Revis has made a viable career for almost two decades shuttling between both the mainstream and avant-garde jazz scenes. For his second trio date as a bandleader, Revis is once again joined by adventurous pianist Kris Davis – the group’s effective lead voice. Gerald Cleaver now fills the drum chair – a position once manned by Andrew Cyrille, who was prominently featured on City of Asylum (Clean Feed, 2013), Revis’ prior piano trio effort, and John Betsch, who served on the group’s last European tour.
Revis’ back-to-the-future approach towards jazz composition recalls the halcyon early days of the AACM, evincing a heady amalgam of futuristic expressionism and neo-traditional impressionism, in a mixed program that brims with taut call-and-response interplay, modulating tempo shifts and sweeping dynamics. On kinetic numbers like “Arcane 17” and “Vertical Hold,” Davis’ flinty attack finds striking concordance with Cleaver’s slicing cymbal work and the leader’s brawny bass tone, emphasizing the percussive side of her technique. Cleaver’s ingenious textural asides materialize on “QB4R,” while “D.O.C.” demonstrates the threesome’s ability to swing it old school, in semi-conventional fashion.
There is a strong focus on Davis’ protean artistry across the album’s eight diverse pieces, although Revis’ pliant bass playing is especially notable during quieter moments, such as the mesmerizing title track and a hushed cover of Paul Motian’s lush ballad “Victoria.” On his own or with minimal accompaniment, Revis pushes the envelope of sound into venturesome territory, using an array of extended arco techniques to expand his palette with spectral harmonics and reverberating overtones.
The resurgence of the acoustic piano trio is ongoing; the artists advancing the form are increasingly manifold. Crowded Solitudes, a high water mark in this congested milieu, serves as a vibrant document of intrepid artists glancing backwards for inspiration as they simultaneously move ahead.