On Faith in Action
, his reverent homage to an old boss, saxophonist Bobby Watson
, Orrin Evans plays with his heart on his sleeve, gliding right down to his bare fingertips. Here is a pianist who channels masters from Thelonious Monk
to Bud Powell
and Bill Evans
. However, through it all Evans is his own man, a singular voice that combines the precision of a surgeon and the compassion of a saint in an attack on the keys that is so angular and delightful that dancing feet and swaying bodies may never stop moving and grooving. Evans displays a superb ability to express the emotion of the music. This makes his reading of songs he aims to interpret taut with feeling. His solos comprise well-chosen notes and short phrases that reveal ideas that are fresh, inventive, and always relevant. Thus he goads his musiciansespecially those in his current trio(s)to reach further and deeper into their hearts and minds, to respond with equal measures of invention.
Watson has high praise indeed for the music on this album. And this is well merited by Evans. He deconstructs melody, probing every nook and cranny of the texture of sound to uncover the rich overtones of notes. These he inhabits as he rolls around on the keyboard, tossing and turning the new things he has discovered. His darting use of harmonics, often played with a sustained pedal and varied dynamics, in the way he strikes the notes makes his interpretations more resonant and infinitely memorable because of the echoes as the notes bounce off the capillaries of the mind's ear. The four-dimensional sound of "Appointment in Milano" provides a wonderful example of this aspect of his music. But he is a chameleon, too. For instance, on "Beattitudes," another Watson tune, he is more subdued, even circumspect. His voice is clipped, almost as if he were speaking softly instead of singing. Then, toward the middle of the piece, he becomes restless and florid and begins to vocalize in myriad voices.
Evans continues to surprise and catch the listener off guard throughout the length and breadth of the album. Breadth is, indeed, the operative word, as the music he plays has a sweeping nature, creating large canvases of sound. Even on short elegiac pieces such as "Matthew's Song" and the jitterbug-like "MAT-Matt," composed for his children, he pushes the boundaries of tone and texture almost to the breaking point. However brittle this might sound initially, Evans bounces around the drums of Nasheet Waits
and the bass of Luques Curtis, pushing hard against anything that might become a barrier to broadening the scope of his sound.
It is clear that Evans is brimming with ideas. However, an ultimate fade to black on the album is inevitable. Still, it is here that Evans seems only to retreat into a thoughtful silence to ponder the twists and turns of his next wonderfully surprising project.
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.
Orrin Evans: piano; Luques Curtis: bass; Nasheet Waits: drums; Rocky Bryant: drums; Gene Jackson: drums.