For those who may have been disappointed by the Philadelphia pianist-composer Orrin Evans' recent experiments with backbeats and electric keyboards, Easy Now marks a notable return to swinging on acoustic instruments. But this new venture is primarily a tribute to the late Don Evans, a gifted playwright and educator, as well as Orrin's father.
If these compositions are any indication, Don Evans must have been complex, thoughtful, and unpredictable, perhaps a bit like the jutting measure of 5/4 time that concludes each chorus of "Don't Fall Off The L.E.J.," which is in all other aspects a fast 4/4 cooker. Actually, like most of the musicians who work in the new mainstream of today's jazz world, Orrin Evans uses composition to create modern challenges for modern impovisers. This would also include the drum thwacks that constitute part of the line of "Captain Black."
Further, the playing here is consistently top-shelf, giving these tunes a worthy presentation. Evans often plays percussively, playing clusters, even pounding the piano. But that's hardly all he does. He can play gently and lyrically, or he can spin a long, swinging line. Although he sometimes alludes to Monk, Orrin Evans is very much his own man. Saxophonist Ralph Bowen is also his own man. Heard here on alto and soprano sax rather than his customary tenor, Bowen reveals a lush, warm sound on each horn, almost as if he were trying to combine Eric Dolphy with Benny Carter or perhaps Lucky Thompson. He swings up a storm on "Don't Fall Off The L.E.J." and "Dorm Life."
Finally, J.D. Allen should be singled out for his warm, deeply moving tenor sax playing on "Song For My Father." He and Evans play the Horace Silver classic as a duet, in a stately ballad that may be the highlight of the album.
Track Listing: Captain Black, BM, For DE, Don't Fall Off The L.E.J., Easy Now, Bonus Round, Dance On The Moon, Dorm Life, Song For My Father, Don't Fall Off The L.E.J. (cont.).
Personnel: Orrin Evans, piano; Ralph Bowen, alto and soprano sax; Mike Boone, bass; Byron Landham,
Track 9 only: J.D.Allen, tenor sax.
Tracks 5, 7 only: Eric Revis, bass.
Tracks 1,2,3, 5 only: Rodney Green, drums.