Orrin Evans: Freedom (2011)
Orrin Evans' first three Posi-Tone releases formed a diverse but high-quality trilogy: the piano trio (Faith In Action, 2010); the freer, more left-field small band (Tarbaby's End Of Fear, 2010); and the hard-blowing and exciting big band (Captain Black Big Band, 2011). Hot on their heels comes Freedom, Evans' fourth album in less than two years. The quality remains high.
Freedom harks back to the lineup and style of Faith In Action. Evans' home town of Philadelphia looms large, with all of the band and most of the composers hailing from the city. If anything, the album's accent is more strongly on melody, its emotional tone more romantic and less frenetic than Faith In Action, although the trio's take on Chris Beck's "Hodge Podge" shows that it can crank up the tempo and the tension whenever it wants.
Charles Fambrough's "One For Honor" showcases bassist Dwayne Burno's rich, fat-toned sound and the skittering, dynamic percussion of the impressive young drummer Anwar Marshall. Burno's own "Gray's Ferry" is a slinky blues, with a gently seductive swing courtesy of Byron Landham, who was also featured on Evans' first recording, 1994's self produced The Trio. Veteran saxophonist Larry McKenna adds a confident solo to this tune, while on Jule Styne's "Time After Time" he takes the lead role, playing the melody line with warmth before kicking things into a higher tempo.
Evan's own "Dita," is a slow ballad characterized by his spacious and considered piano and Landham's inventive percussion. Evans' solo performance of Herbie Hancock's "Just Enough" is a beautiful valediction, a delicate and controlled approach that draws out the tune's romance and lyricism.
Evans' body of recorded work is both extensive and impressive. His previous three Posi-Tone albums are among his most mature and rewarding works, with a breadth of imagination that few other contemporary jazz musicians can muster. Freedom is a beautiful creation, a work of great strength and musical perception.
Track Listing: One for Honor; Gray's Ferry; Shades of Green; Dita; Time After Time; Hodge Podge; Oasis; As Is; Just Enough.
Personnel: Orrin Evans: piano; Dwayne Burno: bass; Byron Landham: drums, percussion; Anwar Marshall: drums (1, 6, 7); Larry McKenna: tenor saxophone (2, 5).