The sound of Orrin Evans’ piano is restless. His latest trio, Seed, features original compositions that have an unsettled quality. Like Horace Tapscott’s explorations of the 1970’s or Andrew Hill in the 1960’s, this band pushes an expansive enthusiasm for new jazz. Evans keyboard work reminds me of a very propulsive Thelonious Monk mixed with the percussive elements of Herbie Hancock. His prior records, all four on the Criss Cross label (and all worth searching for), showcase a superstar in the making. He made a name for himself in Bobby Watson and Ralph Peterson’s bands and has recently toured with vibraphonist Stephon Harris. His Seed bandmates include bassist Mike Boone (Buddy Rich Band) and drummer Rodney Green (Greg Osby).
While this outing is loaded with guests, the three trio tracks may be the highlights, showcasing a muscular attack and a time-changing interaction on “T.C.’s Blues,” “Commitment,” a three-directional, very modern jaunt, and “Libra” the most tender of ballads. Evans, like fellow young pianist Jason Moran, seem to have absorbed the theories of Herbie Nichols and Thelonious Monk and applied them to a concerted trio sound ala Bill Evans. They take group interplay and swinging group improvisation to crisp new heights.
If you are a fan of Evans, the trio’s 22-minutes is plenty of draw. But wait there’s more! His guest musicians augment the trio and add a distinct blowing session factor. Saxophonist Branford Marsalis, who doesn’t get enough attention for his soprano playing steps up on “Boffadem” (as opposed to ‘one-of-them’) to play smooth counter to the bands angles. Unknown (to me) alto saxophonist Jaleel Shaw joins wife of Evans and vocalist Dawn for a cover of Todd Rundgren’s “Hello It’s Me.” Slowing the time, like so many Cassandra Wilson cover projects, reworks his rock classic into a wholly believable jazz song. The highlight of the guest spots is the tag team saxophonist Gary Bartz and Ralph Bowen. They post a workout on two tracks, Bartz’ biting lines matched with Bowden’s perfect elocution. Trumpeter Duane Eubanks joins the pair on “When It Comes” for a post/hard/bop aggressive piece sure to frighten any musician even thinking of sitting in with the band in his seat.