A fascinating programme in which three of the finest ‘young Turks’ – Orrin Evans, Christian McBride and Karriem Riggins – come together to play the works (mostly) of one of the most talented pianists today: Orrin Evans. Once spotlight in the ensemble of Bobby Watson, Mr. Evans stepped out of the limelight to enjoy a less publicised career. He has recorded extensively with Positone Records but as this Smoke Sessions release shows, his playing has acquired a poetic richness less apparent in those earlier days. Throughout this programme as on his earlier Positone recordings, his technique is as superb and assured as it is unobtrusive and in his own compositions as in the standards his playing glows with grace and affection, alive with many personal and engaging touches.
What warmth and pleading Mr. Evans shows in “All the Things You Are”, what wistfulness and interior magic he brings to the elegiac “Autumn Leaves”. These are two of the finest pieces on the disc, the former most lovingly crafted and re-imagined in a most classy manner. However Orrin Evans is more robust and seductive in the invigorating compositions he brings to the table. His piece “For Miles” is superb. How he excels in the teasing and improvisatory, conversational brio of this piece, making you stop and listen with ears and heart as the melody unwinds. His great sense of engagement and plethora of notes comes from impeccable technique and musicianship. Mr. Evans’s approach (to this and other compositions by him) is of a truly extraordinary novelty in the sense of that emotion – often raging emotion – is reflected in s subtlety that is as haunting and evocative as you would wish.
Much of what is accomplished here is also due, in no small part, to the sympathetic listening of bassist Christian McBride and drummer Karriem Riggins. Bothe men play their instruments with virtuoso panache making luminous harmonic and rhythmic statements with clarity and grace. The two musicians prove themselves fine interpreters of Orrin Evans’s music. Like all great accompanists they have the biggest ears and listen carefully with them, knowing just when to shine and when to recede from the limelight and let Mr. Evans bask in it.
Between them the three musicians take this material to the extremes that the composers’ would not have dreamed of, and Orrin Evans, obviously committed, makes the most of the extended range, the dynamic contrasts and the juxtapositions of tentative sounds with the most strenuous gestures. Mr. Evans shows himself to be a fine player of others’ music too. I longed for and found subtle illumination of phrasing, the sort of light and shade that make it that much easier to appreciate his own renditions of the music. This is the kind of thing that makes each piece take on a new sense of life and poise. Here I should make special mention of his duet with Marvin Sewell on “Wildwood Flower” who is most impressive. But ultimately it is the whole programme with its powerful sense of a great pageant unfolding that makes this disc so memorable.
Track List: All the things you are (prelude); For Miles; Genesis I; Autumn leaves; Wildwood flower; Sweet Sid; Genesis II; Jewels & baby Yaz; Iz Beatdown time; Spot it you got it; Genesis III; Feb 13th; A secret place; Ruby red; Tsagli’s lean; Professor Farworthy; All the things you are (spring feathers); All the things you are.
Personnel: Orrin Evans: piano; Christian McBride: bass; Karriem Riggins: drums; Marvin Sewell: guitar (5 & 13); JD Walter: vocals (18)
About Orrin Evans
Pianist Orrin Evans takes stock of the pivotal moments that shape the trajectory of a life on The Evolution of Oneself, his scintillating new release on Smoke Sessions Records. The album is itself a landmark in Evans’ musical evolution, introducing a remarkable new piano trio with two longtime associates but first-time collaborators: bassist Christian McBride and drummer Karriem Riggins. The result is a raw and thrilling excursion incorporating a startlingly wide range of influences, from jazz and neo-soul to country and hip-hop. Read more…