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Orrin Evans: Blessed Ones (2002)

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Orrin Evans: Blessed Ones No stars How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

One certainly can’t accuse pianist Orrin Evan of hopping on the revival bandwagon. Nothing he’s done over the course of four previous Criss Cross sides and two self-promoted albums smacks of mainstream sentimentality. On the contrary, Evans likes to push the envelope and that fact becomes ever so apparent now that he’s in the wide open surroundings of Blessed Ones. This is his first trio affair and it squarely puts the weight on the pianist’s shoulders in terms of keeping an audience’s attention.

If anything, Evans might go just a bit too left of center for some tastes. The opening “Autumn Leaves” bares no resemblance to the original other than the chordal structure. It’s a collective romp that builds to peak intensity before settling down at the end for a vamp and the briefest snippet of a melody. Up next is “Two Faces of Nasheet” and another free form intro subsequently leads to a brisk section where Evans swings like there’s no tomorrow. By this point, you’re ready for the delicate quietude of “Anysha I,” a pretty ballad penned by Philadelphia legend and mentor Trudy Pitts.

Both Pat Metheny’s “Bright Size Life” and Michel Legrand’s “I Will Wait For You” go through radical transformations in the hands of this trio and the virtuosity and telepathic support that exists is something to marvel. Another distinguished elder from Philly, drummer Edgar Bateman, sits in on two numbers and makes a particularly strong showing on “The Inchworm.” Dense and challenging stuff on a whole, but hats off to Evans for taking the music into new and uncharted waters.

Track Listing: Autumn Leaves, Two Faces of Nasheet, Anysha I, Some Other Blues, Blesssed One the Eternal Truth, The Inchworm, Bright Size Life, I Will Wait For You, Anysha II

Personnel: Orrin Evans (piano), Eric Revis (bass), Nasheet Waits (drums), Edgar Bateman (drums on 4 and 6)

Record Label: Criss Cross

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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