When "uncompromising" is used to describe a musician, one of the first word that usually comes to mind is "difficult," as in "difficult to understand." The musician in question puts out music which dispenses with that which the mind uses to recognize patterns: rhythm, harmony and melody. Furthermore, music which eschews euphony is invariably called "difficult."
Baritone saxophonist Charles Evans
is most definitely uncompromising in that he knows what he wants to say and how he wants to say it while continuing to explore his very personal realm of musical expression. While jazz or "creative improvised music" already has a small, but devoted, audience, following this path naturally shrinks it further and Evans ended up starting a highly regarded high school band program to pay the bills.
That said, those who have (or wish to develop) the ears and mind to appreciate Evans' music, will find On Beauty
to be a highly emotional and extremely moving work with many sections that are traditionally, almost achingly, beautiful and others which merit that attribute when appreciated from one angle or another.
Yes, there is much intellect involved and the emotional is often filtered through that intellect. The composed material provides the working parts (motivic fragments, twelve tone rows -or at least what sounds like them) and structure (which is notated somehow) of the music, within which the players improvise.
The work thus has a coherence which ends up being quite comforting (and appreciated as beautiful) as the it progresses. The total control that Evans has of the baritone saxophone (particularly its upper register) is also a beautiful thing to hear.
It is a thing of beauty to follow pianist Ron Stabinsky
's lines and chords (or clusters) in and of themselves, but also how they interact with the rest of the music; as free as he sometimes plays, he often feels like he is grounding the music and holding it together. Bassist Tony Marino
is also indispensable in what he does.
And then there is David Liebman
, here staying with the soprano saxophone and for whom this music was written. Whether he is commenting, leading or following, his lines (and sometimes shrieks) are always perfectly placed and the interaction between him and Evans is truly amazing. On Beauty
is superficially a complex work, but one in which (possibly surprisingly) feels it is easy to get inside of. The music rather quickly becomes familiar, the structure becomes more and more recognizable and what at first seems imposing opens itself up.
Straddling any one of a number stylistic labels, Evans' music is ultimately about personal expression, which in the end is highly communicative and very rewarding, and this is what art is about.