Eric Revis Credit: Emra Islek

Because competition for gigs in New York is so tight, jazz musicians often need to carve out a very specific niche—to become the best at mainstream postbop or neo-swing or whatever. Under those circumstances, musicians who refuse to box themselves in are special by default—and bassist Eric Revis is a unique case by any measure. Revis came up with brilliant jazz singer Betty Carter and hit his stride in the Branford Marsalis Quartet, but his curiosity has led him in plenty of less obvious directions, such as working with German free-jazz saxophonist Peter Brötzmann or star guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel. In 2009 Revis invited Chicago saxophonist Ken Vandermark to join some of his own regular colleagues—pianist Jason Moran and drummer Nasheet Waits—in a new band, wedding two distinct schools of thought and generating impressive results on 2012’s Parallax. A newer quartet with Vandermark works even better: the album Sing Me Some Cry (Clean Feed) is a dazzlingly diverse effort with pianist Kris Davis and drummer Chad Taylor, duly reflecting the aesthetic range of its makers (all four contribute a tune). The quartet meshes the musicians’ individual tendencies beautifully: Vandermark blows muscular, jagged lines over playing by Davis that alternates between tonally oblique and rhapsodically tender, while Taylor (who’s sounded better than ever in the past year or two) deftly balances deep groove and power. The music covers a lot of ground, pivoting between postbop, free jazz, and pure improvisational energy. This is the sort of band that will seriously raise the stakes onstage.   v