Pianist Orrin Evans' last three outings for the Posi-Tone label have been vastly different from one another. He forged new, edgy frontiers as part of the collectively formulated Tarbaby on The End Of Fear
(Posi-Tone, 2010), put his own unique stamp on the big band format with the bold Captain Black Big Band
(Posi-Tone, 2011), and gave a nod to Philadelphia, the city that formed and nurtured him, on the mostly trio-based Freedom
(Posi-Tone, 2011). Flip The Script
finds Evans working in trio mode again, but it's not more of the same. Freedom
had a mainstream appeal to it, at least on a modern jazz measuring stick, but this album goes further afield. Morphing grooves and probing proclamations come into play as Evans explores the inner workings of this particular trio and the music it chooses to make. While it may be paradoxical to call this group a tight unit that thrives on loose maneuvers, the shoe fits. All three men are expert navigators and simpatico allies who make all the sharp turns necessary, but they never sound rigid. Flexibility may seem at odds with precision, but this group knows how to reconcile those two ideals.
"The Question" opens the album with uncertain sentiments. Quirky and perplexed pianism, stormy drums, avant swing and thorny statements characterize this piece, but not the greater whole. The following "Clean House" is a more stable venture, highlighting Evans' soloing, and the band continues to branch out from there. The title track is marked by intricate directional shifts and hits, the slow-moving "When" contains a brief drizzle of abstract piano rain drops, and bassist Ben Wolfe
shares the spotlight with Evans on a snail-slow swinger dubbed "Big Small."
Evans slows things down with two late-in-the-game covers that touch on different moods. "Someday My Prince Will Come" is a classy, floating jewel built around reflective beauty, while "The Sound Of Philadelphia," from the famed team of Gamble and Huff, gives Evans the opportunity to go it alone, finding a more soulful vein to tap into.
While Evans always plays at an extremely high level, he's in rare form on Flip The Script
, an album of potent piano trio music that invites and rewards repeated listening.