Eric Revis Quintet at Jazz Gallery 12/20/17 (by Caroline Davis)

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PERSONNEL: Darius Jones (alto saxophone), Bill McHenry (tenor saxophone), Kris Davis (piano), Gerald Cleaver (drums)

SET LIST: ProByte, May 30th, Dance of the Evil Toys, House of Leaves, JRMJ, BPH (all by Eric Revis)

HIGHLIGHTS: Can we talk about Bill McHenry’s embouchure flexibility? He played a solo on a tune where he was pitch-bending, and I just lost it.

Every once in a while, there are those shows that make you feel like you want to jump out of an airplane and start a new life in the clouds. This was exactly that. Raw euphoria. I’m glad I was able to catch Revis, as it’s harder these days since his move out west.

Aside from mentioning his perplexity about being called a “mid-career” musician whilst being on recent “rising-star” lists, Revis didn’t say anything on stage: exactly what was necessary. The show was made possible by a generous grant from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, which allowed him to compose music in the isolated Breuer/Rockefeller House at Pocantico in Mount Pleasant, NY. (The music didn’t seem to reflect its birthplace in any obvious way.)

The focus was more on the flow between the pieces rather than their individual identities. One sounded a bit like it was inspired by a motet or period piece, but it quickly gave way to some pointed saxophone bursts. Kris Davis is a force – from prepared piano to up-tempo swing, she nailed it. Bill and Darius complement each other in their clarity, and they aren’t afraid of repetition, especially as a way to hand freedom over to the rhythm section. Repetition, brevity, stark textural contrasts – they were all here tonight.

Revis’s compositions frequently offered repetitive figures in the bass voice with angular melodies overtop, usually framed by contrasting melodic or textural sections. However, each piece was guided more by the musicians rather than the written music. There was no fear of developing their improvised ideas. In the end, it wasn’t even about the solos, but the way the band interacted inside of the solos.

One cool moment was this: later in the set, Revis was trying to motion in Cleaver’s general direction to cue a new section, but he stuck with the groove he was playing in a fast 5, which actually felt okay over the new ideas (clearly in a different meter). Sometimes what we plan as bandleaders doesn’t end up working in the moment, and it’s inspiring to see. It helps remind us that we are merely vehicles of the music.

— by Caroline Davis