Eric Revis: Slipknots Through a Looking Glass

John Sharpe By

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Eric Revis: Slipknots Through a Looking Glass
On Slipknots Through a Looking Glass, bassist Eric Revis helms a five strong unit to experimental ends juxtaposing emotionally ambiguous abstraction with gut punch drive. To cover the bases he unites saxophonists Bill McHenry and Darius Jones from the quartet which waxed In Memory Of Things Yet Seen (Clean Feed, 2014), with the pianist Kris Davis from Sing Me Some Cry (Clean Feed, 2017), along with drummer Chad Taylor who powered both. Joining on two numbers out of 11 is drummer Justin Faulkner, Revis' band mate from his tenure with Branford Marsalis.

Straight from the opening "Baby Renfro," Revis demonstrates the centrality of rhythm and repetition to his conception. With funky interlocking motifs derived from popping bass harmonics, prancing offkilter piano, hip-hop beats and punchy horn interjections, what the cut lacks in solos, it more than makes up for in its infectious energy. It also signals that Revis has envisaged a group music, in which individual features when they happen at all are brief and to the service of his overall intent.

While the majority of the cuts originate from Revis' pen, he stitches "SpAE" together from three minimalist extemporizations by a trio completed by Davis and Taylor, the last on mbira, a type of thumb piano. The resultant hypnotic dream like reverie pays further testimony to the central role of reiterated patterns across this date. Further studio trickery also results in the three versions of the title track which present the bassist in pizzicato conversation with himself against an ethereal backdrop which recalls distant bird calls. The three pieces act as interludes in a program but also serve to unify wide ranging material.

The gamut stretches from the unrelenting jackhammer of Jones' "Shutter," which launches first bellowing tenor distortions from McHenry then a coruscating alto wail from its author, to McHenry's mournful ballad "When I Become Nothing," which transmutes part way through into an earthy lope. While the two reeds can blend smoothly, as on the languid almost cool "Earl & the Three-Fifths Compromise," they can also offer contrasts. If each note that McHenry plays inexorably follows the last, as if in a measured approach to solving an equation, then Jones remains ever ready to wear his heart on his sleeve.

That's nowhere better heard than on the thorny "Vimen" where the altoist hoarsely exhorts, while McHenry strikes a more conciliatory pose. This is where Davis gets to stretch out the most, after adding texture, counterpoint and percussive emphasis elsewhere, she is full of scuttling flourish and dramatic accents over a thicket of whipcrack drums and knotty bass on the longest and most animated selection. After such an adrenaline rush, the final version of the title track offers a cooling balm on an album which constantly subverts expectations.

Track Listing

Baby Renfro; SpAE; Earl & the Three-Fifths Compromise; Slipknots Through a Looking Glass, Part 1; Shutter; ProByte; Slipknots Through a Looking Glass, Part 2; House of Leaves; When I Become Nothing; Vimen; Slipknots Through a Looking Glass, Part 3.


Eric Revis: bass; Kris Davis: piano; Bill McHenry: saxophone, tenor; Darius Jones: saxophone, alto; Chad Taylor: drums.

Additional Instrumentation

Justin Faulkner: drums (1, 3)

Album information

Title: Slipknots Through a Looking Glass | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Pyroclastic Records

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