Andrew Cyrille is a 72-year-old drummer who spent a decade stoking the fiery eruptions of avant-garde pianist Cecil Taylor; he was arguably Taylor’s most ingenuous and empathetic foil. Kris Davis is a 30-something pianist with a reputation for mixing Taylor’s virtuosity with the elliptical phrasing and harmonic sophistication of Andrew Hill and the epigrammic wit of Thelonious Monk. The 46-year-old bassist Eric Revis presciently thought he and this pair could excel at collective improvisation, and City of Asylum is the consistently marvelous result, tapping into a shared intuitive wellspring that spans generations. It is distinctively wise and fearless in all the right places.
There are three covers — Monk’s obscure “Gallop’s Gallop,” Keith Jarrett’s “Prayer” and Revis’s own “Question” — but the nimble excitement and uncanny communication present in the seven improvisations are the real story on City of Asylum. “Vadim” is highlighted by the way Cyrille’s cymbals liquefy an otherwise-percussive song. “Egon” finds Revis in especially fine form, sawing and slapping his bow. On “Sot Avast,” Revis grinds out notes that recall thick ropes straining on a ship at sea before unearthing a low, growling riff topped off with a high-pitched accent, which Davis then eclipses with her own looming vamp. It is a forceful, unhesitating dynamically changeable song full of portent and beauty. The following improvisation, “For Bill Traylor,” is much different, an exercise in pace, patience and delicacy that is more resolute than gentle, with gorgeously rendered thickening and paring of the timbre. Revis, who released Parallax with Jason Moran, Ken Vandermark and Nasheet Waits late last year, now has two masterworks in six months time to his credit.