Pianist Orrin Evans has always been (what am I saying? He was in high school in the early 1990s) a kind of undiscovered favorite of piano jazz fans. His recordings for the Dutch label Criss Cross have shown a maturity in playing and composing beyond his tender years. Like his stablemate at Criss Cross records Bill Charlap, expect Evans to break out soon with a major US exposure.
It may sound a bit odd that the yet-to-be-famous Evans would reissue a recording from his earliest years, but Deja Vu, recorded circa 1994, is a valuable document to those who have followed Evans’ career. The pianist has of late been a member of Bobby Watson and Ralph Peterson’s bands. But where he shines is the small combo leadership role. His recordings Captain Black (1997) and Grown Folk Bizness (1998) are outstanding post hard-bop sessions and two of the better piano recordings of the 90s.
This session, while it lacks the sophistication of his later sessions, makes up for it with exuberance. For instance the solo piece “5-4-94” opens with Evans strumming the strings inside the piano, only to knock his written music of the stand. We hear him straighten and continue uninterrupted with an introspective piece that is a mixture of Herbie Hancock and Keith Jarrett. Other highlights here include a partially deconstructed Thelonious Monk track “Rhythm-a-ning,” and the romping Cole Porter tune “I Love You.” Evans shows signs here of his lovely ballad writing with “When Jen Came In” and his love of fast tempos, “Dorm Life.” This record is a peek into what has yet to be discovered by the jazz world. More information about Orrin Evans can be found at Imani Records .