Bill Evans (saxophone): Dragonfly (2012)
How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
The music on saxophonist Bill Evans' Dragonfly plays like the sum total of his experiences distilled into a single disc. Evans has spent more than three decades playing with the cream of the crop, including jazz heavyweights like trumpeter Miles Davis and guitarist John McLaughlin, and smooth stars such as pianist Dave Grusin and guitarist Lee Ritenour, but he doesn't always pitch his tent in the jazz camp. He's also spent time playing with Mick Jagger, Warren Haynes, The Allman Brothers, Bela Fleck and Willie Nelson, and all of these experiences play a part in the stylistic diversity that's at play on Dragonfly.
His self-made "soulgrass" sound, which fuses rock, jam band ideals and jazz esthetics, with hints of fusion, roots music and funk thrown into the mix, isn't for those who prefer their styles squarely sorted out. It is, however, a gateway sound for those who aren't comfortable fully immersing themselves in certain musical waters without feeling the temperature with their toes first.
This record, which has a rock attitude from start to finish, contains something for everybody. The aggressive "Madman" is a testosterone-fueled rocker that features some laser-like guitar soloing from Mitch Stein, while "Time" is a driving number that features some killer solo work from guest organist John Medeski and "Nothin' To Believe In" sounds like it could have come from Bruce Hornsby's catalog. Evans' high-energy playing is ever-present on this outing, but he truly outdoes himself on "Time" and "Kings And Queens." He seems to constantly live in the moment and he's capable of spitting out endless ideas at race pace.
Banjoist Ryan Cavanaugh is the key to the bluegrass/jazz fusion that takes place here, and drummer/vocalist Josh Dion gives the music its distinctive rock drive, but Evans moves past this marriage of sounds at certain places. "Tit For Tat," a funky jam with a guest band featuring guitarist Warren Haynes, and "Forbidden Daffodils," a passionate, smooth-to-sizzling number that features Evans and guest guitarist Steve Lukather, are perfect examples of how he works outside of his own script.
The multicolored dragonfly that adorns this album cover is the perfect visual representation for Evans' music: colorful and likely to take flight.
Track Listing: Madman; Time; Kings And Queens; Tit For Tat; I Don't Know About Love; Forbidden Doffodils; Nothin' To Believe In; Lay It Down; Dirt County Breakdown; Dragonfly.
Personnel: Bill Evans: saxophone. vocals (7); Josh Dion: drums, vocals; Ryan Cavanaugh: banjo; Mitch Stein: guitar, vocals (7); Clifford Carter: keyboards, vocals (7); Andy Hess: bass, vocals (7); Warren Haynes: guitar (4); Keith Carlock: drums (4); Danny Louis: organ (4); Tim Lefebvre: bass (4); Steve Lukather: guitar (1, 6); Vaneese Thomas: vocals (1-3, 5); John Medeski: organ (2); Mickey Raphael: harmonica (5, 7); Roger Squitero: percussion (2, 3, 5-8); Rebecca Evans: vocals (7).
Record Label: Self Produced