Peter Evans' previous solo album, More is More (Psi, 2006), began an unbroken sequence of releases that demonstrates why the trumpeter is increasingly regarded with a mixture of awe and wonder. That solo album was followed by his debut as a leader, The Peter Evans Quartet (Firehouse 12, 2007) and Check for Monsters (Emanem, 2009), featuring a fine chamber improv trio with cellist Okkyung Lee and multi-instrumentalist Steve Beresford. These albums have been backed up by a variety of gigs at least as impressive as the recordings.
Nature/Culture continues the winning streak by returning to solo improvisation. It manages to improve on Evans' previous Psi release, which largely featured Evans experimenting with and developing his embouchure and other techniques. Here, his techniques are fully formed and rock solid, using them to produce several coherent and satisfying pieces.
The first CD of this double set was studio recorded from July to September of 2008; the second is a live recording from November 2008. The contrasts between the two illustrate Evans' versatility. In the studio no effects or processing were used. Instead, Evans utilizes a range of mutes to dramatically alter the tonal qualities of his horn. On "The Chamber," a bubble-shaped Harmon mute gives the trumpet an eerie resonance. The studio disc culminates in "Five," on which five trumpets with different bucket mutes are overdubbed to create a well-crafted collage where the different sounds wax and wane, producing a modulated drone, with the overall effect being more important than any one of them. The live recording is dominated by the 37-minute title track, which was improvised as one continuous piece, only having been indexed as five sections for listening convenience.
Evans himself tellingly comments that "jazz musicians have often referred to playing a solo as 'telling a story,' which is essentially how I look at this music; it is an opportunity to state possibilities and tell stories that are short, long, true, false, unfinished, overlapping, fantastic and mundane." Evans is, indeed, a great story teller. His tales contain passion, drama, suspense and the occasional surprise. As he continues to mature and develop, Evans seems bound for great things; expect to hear far more of him.