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Orrin Evans: The Evolution Of Oneself

Mark Corroto By

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Simply put, if there was no Philadelphia sound, there would be no Orrin Evans. The pianist, hailing from The City of Brotherly Love, finds plenty of Philly passion on this busy trio recording, his 25th as a leader or co-leader. Here he teams up with Detroit drummer and former roommate (back in the day) Karriem Riggins, and Philly's go-to bassist Christian McBride.

His amazing career has developed from the early post-bop Criss Cross recording days to his neo-soul ensemble Luv Park and the collective Tarbaby with Eric Revis and Nasheet Waits. His style has bridged bop to funk and soul, but always remained firmly planted in a jazz tradition. That is, everything means a thing, because its got that swing.

This disc follows his previous quintet live recording Liberation Blues (Smoke Sessions, 2014). Here, the theme presented is his evolution in life and music. He chooses to wrap the CD with the Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein standard "All the Things You Are," which opens and closes the disc. He opens with his muscular hard-bop trio, later introduces a slow burning piece of electronica with spoken lyric, and finally an achingly deliberate ballad with the vocals of JD Walter. Where another artist's attempt to pair so many different approaches might seem disjointed, here the brief "Genesis" hip-hop interludes his son injects stimulate the mix.

Evans has the knack of juxtaposing just the right elements. For instance, he places the late Grover Washington Jr.'s tune "A Secret Place" with its R&B fragrance beside the country folk piece "Wildwood Flower." The latter tune is dedicated to a woman whom many of us don't know but love, drummer Matt Wilson's late wife Felicia. The piece finds guitarist Marvin Sewell playing some nifty slide guitar. Performed by Evans, with this band, all seems quite natural.

He reconfigures Johnny Mercer's "Autumn Leaves" into an unrecognizable romp that surfaces for air and the occasional identification. Evans takes full advantage of this trio, giving McBride and Riggins plenty of leash to shape the sound. "Sweet Sid" levies talking bass over boogaloo beats, and the soulfulness of "Iz Beatdown Time" calls for a constant sway.

Evans has established, over a career, that his music cannot be compartmentalized. Where he once displayed his range over multiple albums and groups, here he does it all in one session.

Track Listing: All The Things You Are (prelude); For Miles; Genesis I; Autumn Leaves; Wildwood Flower; Sweet Sid; Genesis II; Jewels & Baby Yaz; Iz Beatdown Time; Spot It You Got It; Genesis III; Feb 13th; A Secret Place; Ruby Red; Tsagli’s Lean; Professor Farworthy; All The Things You Are (Spring Feathers); All The Things You Are.

Personnel: Orrin Evans: piano; Christian McBride: bass; Karriem Riggins: drums; Marvin Sewell: guitar (5 & 13); JD Walter: vocals (18).

Title: The Evolution Of Oneself | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Smoke Sessions Records

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