Orrin Evans, a Philadelphia jazz pianist with superior blues/bebop prowess, displays his strengths on Faith In Action, a tribute record to saxophonist Bobby Watson.
Back in the 1980s, fueled by the corporate marketing machines, there was a resurgence of classic, mainstream jazz. As the Marsalis family benefitted from this traditionalist resurgence, other players forged their own paths. Such was the story of Watson who, like trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, was an Art Blakey alum, but who eschewed conservatism for a funky, edgier, blues sound. Watson recorded the stellar Italian sessions Appointment In Milano (Red, 1985) and Love Remains (Red, 1986) before forming possibly the best hard bop band of the late-1980s/early-1990s, Horizon.
Watson's work this century included Orrin Evans as pianist. In Evans, Watson has found a kindred spirit who has seemingly been more appreciated in Europe than the US. His 12 discs for the Dutch Criss Cross label (half as leader) are well worth seeking out.
Evans, in this trio format, finds partners Luques Curtis (bass) and Nasheet Waits (drums) operating on his same groove-bop wavelength. Their combined motion brings to life the Watson compositions that make up half of this session. The players balance the integrity of Watson's compositions against their desire to play off each other. "Wheel Within A Wheel" calls for a dose of melodic swing that can either be dispensed with lightness or a thumping weight. Between Evans and Waits, the pulse can either drive down or rise into feathery flight. Similarly, "Appointment In Milano" finds Evans hammering notesnot with sloppiness, but with a funky, knowing swing, simultaneously reminiscent of McCoy Tyner and Bud Powell.
Even when the trio switches gears, as on the balladic "Matthew's Song"with drummer Gene Jackson sitting inthat hint of sly funk persists. Evans creates a playful groove that is steeped in the blues, but without the clichéd blue licks. His original, "MAT-Mat," fights against standard time signatures, grabbing odd angles with its stop/start logic and skewed beauty.
When the trio goes for the heart strings on Watson's "Love Remains," the bittersweet is served with sincerity and just enough tasty groove to summon the jazz soul.
Don't Call Me Wally; Faith In Action; Wheel Within A Wheel; Appointment In Milano; Matthews Song; Beattitudes; MAT-Matt; Love Remains; Two Steppin with Dawn; Why Not.
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