Falkner Evans: The Point of the Moon (2011)
Pianist Falkner Evans is a distant relative of the great American novelist William Faulkner, by the same obscure Southern logic by which Al Gore and Gore Vidal are related. He is also a former pianist for the tight Western swing outfit Asleep at the Wheel and leader of an acclaimed piano trio.
Evans's famed ancestor once wrote, "The past is never dead. It's not even past." Seen in the right light, this is not a bad axiom for 21st century jazz, in which new and vital music is often made through a judicious mish-mash of past decades' styles and methodswithout becoming sterile museum fare.
A fitting thought, too, for enjoying Evans's The Point of the Moon, on which the band sounds like the great Mosaic (Blue Note, 1962)-era Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers: driving, soulful and intelligent. Indeed, the record fairly overflows with the enthusiasm of a man accustomed to the piano trio now given a wider range of musical materials to work with: namely, the fine horns of trumpeter Ron Horton and saxophonist Greg Tardy (alumni of Andrew Hill's big band). As with Blakey, Evans' arrangements are richly developed and closely argued. This is apparent from the bright, bluesy horn line that opens "Altered Soul," or on "Slightest Movement" and the waltz-time standard "While We're Young."
Evans exhibits an admirable economy of organization of the musicians, compositions and arrangement. As a result, Evans's quintet is able to express a wealth of ideas and sounds in little time and without overdoing things. On "Drawing In," the solos are ingeniously woven into the long statement of the theme itself. By its end, the track has managed to present the musical personality of each of band members in some detail and yet it seems like the piece has barely begun.
In pursuit of this economy of means, Evans the soloist does not hog the limelight. But his solos, when they occur, have the same drive, soul and smarts that characterize the album overall. His solo on "Altered Soul" is not a series of short statements, but rather a long, complex paragraph-length sentence, marked by the rhythmic intent of the compositionnot unlike many sentences written by his Mississippi forebear. Meanwhile, on "Dorsoduro," the twisting, vaguely sad melodic line of which calls to mind the compositions of pianist Dick Twardziklike with Chet Baker on Chet in Paris, Vol. 1 (EmArcy/Barclay, 1956)Evans accents his solo with elegant blues block chords in the manner of Red Garland.
Tardy is fine, his forward sound tinged by free and R&B playing, while Horton has a clean, florid sound. The band is rounded out by Evans' regular trio mates, bassist Belden Bullock and drummer Matt Wilson, whose excellent That's Gonna Leave A Mark (Palmetto, 2009) demonstrated his strengths as a leader. The album's closing duo of tracks feature Gary Versace on very retro organ and accordion, further broadening the album's instrumentarium.
Track Listing: Altered Soul; Drawing In; Dorsoduro; Cheer Up; O Grande Amor; Slightest Movement; While We're Young; Off The Top; The Point Of The Moon.
Personnel: Ron Horton: trumpet; Greg Tardy: tenor saxophone; Falkner Evans: piano; Gary Versace: organ (8), accordion (9); Belden Bullock: bass; Matt Wilson: drums.