When I heard the opening notes of Laughter’s Necklace of Tears, I was reminded at first of Stravinsky and the Rite of Spring. The mixture of bowed viola and plucked bass in haunting overtones just sends chills up your spine. It’s hard to ignore something so entrancing. While not all of his music is quite this somber, Eric Revis’s compositions are full of interplay between the different sounds in almost orchestral complexity.
"Suicide 4 Life" is a good example of this simply because it has so many moving lines. A driving bass and drum line keeps the piece moving without making it feel rushed. The saxes play harmony a few steps off from each other so that there’s an almost continuous clashing of notes. The intensity of the rhythm combined with the dissonant sax line is offset by the odd, somewhat comical sound of the melodica. Revis does an admirable job of keeping all the elements of the group in check, however, so that each sound comes through distinctly.
While some of the pieces, such as "Denihilists" and "The Deaf Schizophrenic", are very harmonic and filled with dissonance, the two ballads on the album, "Faith In All I Fear" and "Feb 13th", are very tender and melodic, very similar to Mingus’s ballad style. There’s a quality of story telling to all of Revis’s compositions, but to me it seems to shine through the best in these two tracks.
"In Tha Hick of Time" was an unexpected treat since it was so different from the rest of the album. I guess if I’d been paying attention to the title the first time through it wouldn’t have been such a surprise, but other than making me chuckle it has some great bow work by Revis.
The blues tracks on the album are well done too, showing more horn-rhythm interplay without getting overly complicated. "O" has a distinct, almost funky groove to it that the sax lines sink into perfectly with the piano adding commentary. Revis chooses to end his album with the Thelonius Monk tune "Shuffle Boil", although he adds a little rock ‘n’ roll to this laid back shuffle to make it a little more edgy. Lots of great horn solos and guitar work make the piece an amazing closer.
Some albums I never feel the need to listen to a second time to understand the music. This one I think I could listen to fifty times and still hear something new each time. Not only is it good listening, heart-felt and well-played but Revis has an undeniable sense of humor that comes through loud and clear, giving you the impression he doesn’t take his music too seriously. From dark and brooding harmonized chords to thigh-slapping bluegrass, every tune on this album is worth hearing.