Pianist Falkner Evans has been gradually expanding the size of his recording projects. He started out with a couple of trio discs, then made one with a quintet. On this latest offering, he fronts a three-horn sextet scored to sound like a bigger and fuller unit.
He uses a front line of Michael Blake on tenor sax, Ted Nash on alto sax and Ron Horton on trumpet, that is blended into a cool, reedy sound which ebbs and flows expertly over the elastic rhythms put out by Evans, bassist Belden Bullock and drummer Matt Wilson. The horns whirl with urgency on "Global News," play with a crisp Spanish influence on "Pina," and blues walk on "Civilization" with a jaunty flair that recalls Oliver Nelson.
Evans' piano gets to shine beautifully on the haunting ballad "Sing Alone" alongside Blake's tenor and Nash's flute. "Mbegu," named for an elephant Evans and his wife sponsor, could be a later Andrew Hill composition with its elongated snaking lines and funky back-beat. It features elegantly hip solo turns from Evans and all the horn players. "This From That" and "Dear West Village" are more straight ahead jazz works which lean on the massed power of the horns as well as strong soloing from the two sax players. Vibraphonist Steve Nelson drops in as a special guest on three numbers. He strongly enhances the front line on the Arabic vamp of "Marbles" and the tropical vibe of "Hidden Gem" whose beat and drifting melody sound like a South Seas tango. He also gets to romp with the band on a hard swinging minute-and-a-half version of Mercer Ellington's "Things Ain't What They Used To Be" at the end.
Everyone in the group gets to excel at one point or another on this album but the MVP of the whole thing is Matt Wilson. He really shows his versatility as he plays with style and humor through whatever rhythm Evans dials up, be it a march, a tango, swing, funk or belly dancing.
Falkner Evans writes and arranges intricate jazz compositions which get a big sound out of a small group while swaying and rolling with a confident swagger. He uses a top flight group of players on this album and they have put together a very enjoyable set.
Pina; Civilization; Sing Alone; Global News; Hidden Gem; This From That; Mbegu; Marbles; Dear West Village;
Things Ain't What They Used To Be.
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