Grammy winner Eric Revis knows what he desires and how he prefers it done. As a bass instrumentalist and composer, such power have assisted him fully to establish himself as a high skilled musician and enable him to release his latest CD Laughters Necklace of Tears, which features collaborations with Orrin Evans, Gerald Cleaver, John Ellis, Stacy Dillard and Oz Noy.
He remarks that jazz found him when he started off playing electric bass in funk and rock bands as a teenager. As he got older and began improving, he started working in a variety of bands, playing all types of music. Revis explains he was lucky enough to have an older musician with whom he played with and introduced him to an extensive Jazz record collection. Soon after he switched to the double bass.
Revis willpower and long-range vision have created the space for sacred sparks. Music is life for him: "It is really ingrained into my being. I don't think of it as being something separate. It is as much a part of me as breathing". He recalls that for a number of years his main concern was to just improve and develop himself. Though this is still his main objective he now feels obliged and compelled to live up to the great tradition of this music and the great heroes of his instrument.
Those heroes he refers to are Wilbur Ware, Jimmy Blanton, Paul Chambers, George Tucker, Charlie Haden, Gary Peacock (1964), Beb Guerin, Jimmy Garrison, Fred Hopkins, Malachi Favors, James Jamerson, Bootsy Collins, Aston "Family Man" Barrett, Cachao, Cachaito,and Andy Gonzales.
Revis has always been totally connected with his personal mission and musical goal. At various times in his development different types of music were very influential: when growing up it was Funk, R&B and Rock. His first forays into jazz were the music of Miles Davis, Ahmad Jamal, all of the great Blue Note recordings and Ornette Coleman. Then, when he attended university in New Orleans, he embraced the music of Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton and such. He reflects: "during all of these phases, I was always drawn to the music that is considered "free" or "avant-garde".
Eric Revis, who was born in Los Angeles and relocated in San Antonio moved to New York in 1994 and became the bassist for Ms. Betty Carter. This was definitely life changing for him. He recalls: "during my first few years in New York I had to come to grips with contextualizing all different elements. This often involved me doing a lot of different gigs on a lot of different scenes".
Though the move to New York put Revis on his amazing journey, he transcended burdens opening the channel for greater visions. He outlines : "The funny thing about NYC is that it is very cliquish, so a lot of times people had no idea that while I may be doing a very "conventional" jazz gig...I was also doing "free" jazz gigs.....as well as some experimental hip-hop gigs...etc."
Revis reflects: "this atmosphere benefited me tremendously; because while most musicians are seemingly stuck in a certain element and feel that their particular element is somehow superior to others...I saw no hierarchy as it pertains to creative music. I have always felt that if it is good and done with conviction, I am down with it. On the other hand, the problem it presented was that a lot of times I would be inspired to draw on these different facets...and on certain gigs the other musicians weren't feeling it at all. So I kept these different elements separate for quite a while".
It wasn't until he started composing and performing with his own group that all of the things that he felt make of him an individual. Revis affirms: "of course it also comes with getting older and become more assured of one's self as a person".
Revis compositions come from a variety of places. He revels: "it’s pretty different with each of my compositions. It can go from a bit of a melody that I develop....or a bass line. Sometimes they are fully realized and sometimes it takes quite awhile to develop them. The one thing I can say about any of my compositions is that none were ever written from the place of me deliberately sitting down to write a song. For better or worse they all come from an organic place. I detest the idea of writing as an exercise. It seems to me a lot of "new" jazz compositions come from a very academic perspective....people writing out patterns that they have practiced and they place some chords under them and the call that their compositions"
He talks about the musicians who played on the record: "Orrin Evans (Piano) is one of my dearest friends and a kindred spirit as to how we perceive music. We have played in several groups together (including the Ralph Peterson Quintet) as well as in each other's groups. He also appears on my first record. The thing I really like about Orrins' playing is that he is not a "pianistic" pianist. He is always in the music....as opposed to being on top of it.
Gerald Cleaver (Drums) is one of the most sought-after drummer's on the scene and I was very lucky to have him on this. His awareness of the music and his support are unprecedented. He has played with everybody.
John Ellis (Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone and Bass Clarinet). I have known John since I attended school in New Orleans. He also has a varied background and is able to simultaneously draw upon his many influences and knowledge. He has a very organic approach to all of the instruments he plays. Great musician.
Stacy Dillard (Tenor saxophone). I met Stacy a few years ago when he first got to New York. What impressed me most was that his maturity as a musician and as a person was well beyond his age. With all of these musicians I must point out the willingness in which they approached the music...and their ability to not only interprets it ...but to put their personality into it.
Oz Noy (Guitar). Oz is phenomenal. He is one of the few guys I know who's knowledge of music is matched by his unbridled willingness to be very ballsy. He's very sophisticated ...but loves the edgy slop as well. He's great....and has some great records as a leader"
Besides music, his universe, Revis is attracted by energy from other abstract universes like the one of visual artists, painters, sculptors, film makers. He confesses:" Growing up, my father was a sculptor and was involved in arts collectives...so I grew about around that type of collaborating environment. Unfortunately I haven't done as much of that as I'd like recently"
Sharing the flame is important for Revis, his character taps into the infinite, the hidden dimension, the ultimate source of strength and pure sharing. He muses:"I think the ultimate goal for all artists is to create beauty in the universe....and the more we do it together the better".
When eulogised for his new compositions, Eric Revis humbly expresses: "thanks for saying that they're great. I listen to a lot of music and have a pretty wide variety of taste. I think (hope) I am able to channel these things in an organic way". Yet he is inspired by everything: friends, family, art, movies, literature.
Revis also likes to read books which he believes served him as inspiration for many of the titles of his compositions. He analyzes:" I have found that my writing comes in spurts. It usually works out to where there is a period of time in which I am amassing ideas. Then as that cup becomes full, I go through a period of contextualizing these ideas and composing. Sometimes it hits me all at once"
As an explorer of soundscapes he refers to «Free" jazz as the ultimate form of improvisation and spontaneous composition. He explains: "often times, musicians become trapped in the tools and devices they employ while developing themselves. I feel that it is imperative that those "tools" be abandoned in order to get to the true essence of music and one's role in the music. In its very essence, music is based on certain logic. In traditional terms this logic is often dictated by chords and form....which for most musicians becomes a crutch of sort. The great practitioners of the "free" music tradition not only abandoned form and chords and such, but were able to do so with such a great sense of inner logic and feeling. In addition, I think the whole purpose of music and art is to objectify one's reality and I feel that we as human beings in the 21st century have far more to say that can be conveyed in traditional music structures".
He has indeed performed with main figures of avant-garde jazz including legendary German reedits Peter Brötzmann. He informs: "I first had the opportunity to play with Peter a couple of years ago at Tonic in NYC. It was a great experience. Peter is an icon of "free-improvised" music. He is a statesman in the tradition along with Ayler and the AACM and others. I am very much looking forward to the tour we have coming up". Peter Brötzmann, drummer and educator Nasheet Waits & Eric Revis will tour USA from 28th April to 10th May 2009.
When asked how he copes with a globe trotter and nomadic life he responds: "I once read an article with Henry Threadgill and he spoke of musicians being true World Citizens. After having travelled for so many years it recently has dawned on me that I have become just that. I am very comfortable wherever I go at this point and have many friends and associates all over the world. That feels very nice. It reaffirms the notion of us all being people and really encourages me about the state of humanity especially given the fact that we are constantly bombarded with what seems to be a very bleak situation in the world".
Music is clearly part of Revis daily existence and without doubt burns within him. What is magic is how he feeds it by sharing with others throughout the world. He reckons to be by no means a religious person...but asses: "I do feel that one can open one's self up to being somewhat of a conduit to a higher consciousness. To be able to channel, whether its in dialogue with other musicians in front of an audience (which also an energy giving source) or collaborating with other creative individuals who selflessly give of themselves to this consciousness....is the highest reward." He concludes: "in terms of the future...I would love to continue to develop myself as an artist and to be able to play with musicians who are near and dear to me"
Throwing away limitations Revis is defying gravity and has developed the power of mind over matter. With Laughter’s Necklace of Tears, Eric Revis has transformed all hardship into beauty and strength, knowing that from there, anything is possible .