Bassist-composer Eric Revis, who might be best known for his recordings and performances with Betty Carter and Branford Marsalis, has released his second solo album, Laughter’s Necklace Of Tears. Produced by Dana Murray, who also plays the drums on Revis’ cover of Thelonious Monk’s "Shuffle Boil," focused Revis’ energy on bridging the freehand meanderings of avant-jazz with traditional swing riffs creating dynamics that are loaded with imagery and precarious entanglements. The arrangements blossom with gently modulated shifts and sprigs of improvisations that keep the flow of the instruments active and crossing over into new directions. The album is symbolic of a city in a constant state of flux sometimes moving in sophisticated lines and sometimes in erratic scribbles, but always moving parallel with people’s thought patterns.
The winding strings in the basin of "Denihilists" have a disturbing pitch creating a corridor of eerie images, while the grazing streaks of Orrin Evans’ piano keys along "Assata" create a creepy resonance that moves forth in a ghostly manner as he is flanked by the dark shadows of John Ellis’ bass clarinet. The tracks project a horror-film shading with pictorials of esoteric tones and obtuse movements framing the pieces. Conversely, "O" is packaged in swing-jazz stylized horns gingerly cabled by a series of jiggling and ticking piano keys moving with the swift shuffles of a tap-dancer. Revis trades off solos with the saxophones and piano, while each supports the others along the progressions. The freehand stylizing in their squiggling lines is festive and alternates with the intervals of swing-inspired horns.
The snaking coils of Evans’ melodica along "Suicide 4 Life" move in solidarity with Revis’ bass pumps along the ascents and sinuous bends of the horns. Instruments move in and out of the main frame with an awareness that demonstrates the musicians intuitive propensity. The soft fluidity of the horns along "Faith In All I Fear" has a opiate-like drifting with an undertow of piano keys that exude a docile mood, which contrasts the steady stream of rapid beating adorning "Grafting Silence" with spinning horns creating impromptu intervals of squeezing and teasing rotations. The casual strut of the horns flows into a catchy repetitive phrasing along "The Deaf Schizophrenic" while interwoven with a procession of subtle beats and jackknifed by abstract bends in the melodica. Many of the pieces have an artsy-bent, but this is not art done for arts sake, rather its art that mirrors life, like the lively traipsing of the horns in "Scherzo-ish" and the contemplative mood of the piano keys in "Feb. 13th." The album has an short intermission of country-tinged strings and handclapping beats projecting a hoedown groove along "In The Hick Of Time," but it is Revis’ handling of Thelonious Monk’s "Shuffle Boil" which is most memorable creating a swing jazz vibe interrupted by the bashing fisticuffs of Oz Noy’s rock guitar.
Eric Revis plunges his whole being into his art creating a supportive environment along the chord dynamics, the melodic turns and majestic ascents in the arrangements. Relying on brushed strokes and an even-keeled strut, Laughter’s Necklace Of Tears is a cooperative endeavor where every musician shines, and offers their own improvisations. Swing has never sounded so good surrounded in abstract themes until Eric Revis went there.