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Album Review

Orrin Evans: The Magic of Now

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Orrin Evans: The Magic of Now
Timing is everything, the old masters teach. So pianist/composer/bandleader Orrin Evans drops the brazen The Magic of Now just in time. Just in time for the world to open up, renew its commitment, and move forward. Just in time for all to engage in those necessary conversations about civil upkeep. Put plainly, The Magic of Now is the music to lead the charge.

A whirlwind of perpetual buoyancy and boundless risk aversion, the eight easeful dances defining The Magic of Now finds Evans reuniting with bassist Vicente Archer, drummer Bill Stewart, and former music camp student, 23-year-old powerhouse alto saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins for some seriously spirited interaction. Evans (who recently gave notice to The Bad Plus) and company play it full tilt and then some.

Righteous, rowdy, and riotous, joy abounds as the quartet, led by Archer and Stewart, slyly open Stewart's "Mynah" from Telepathy (Blue Note, 1997) and it immediately becomes palpable that these guys are very glad, very effin' glad, to be playing together. To be being together: Wilkins' ascending, Evans comping, and the rhythm, well it's meant to blend with little bother into the ecstatic, blow-the-roof-off, cutting party wit of Mulgrew Miller's "The Eleventh Hour." Anyone not familiar with Wilkins' rapid ride to the top of the young jazz elite need only hear the power and glory of the elders his tone and energy conjure on this track alone. So entranced is Wilkins that Evans, sensing the young'un may blow a gasket, literally wrests the spotlight away by going total Thelonious Monk at about the four-minute mark.

Which brings us to "Libra" and the distinct possibility that Evans just may have penned the anthem for the new world. Sure the tune dates back to 2006 with the trio of Evans, bassist Madison Rast and drummer Byron Landham Live In Jackson, Mississippi (Imani Records), but it doesn't resonate as deeply on that occasion as it does so effortlessly here. An elegiac, light hearted melody that won't let go brings to the fore all of Evans' soulful particulars: Percussive one moment, and poppy the next, riding a tight Stewart groove.

As if to show that he isn't only about the power of his majestic horn, Wilkins delivers "The Poor Fisherman," a knowing, reflective, shimmering ballad that Archer and Stewart whisper around as Evans plays with sentiment and delicacy. Another winner from Wilkins, "Levels" is a relaxed 5/4 that affords Evans and his former student some post bop, one-on-one time. Everyone swings intently on "Momma Loves." As if to remind us that it isn't always party time, the quartet quietly close with Evans' ruminative "Dave," making The Magic of Now a keeper from beginning to end.

Track Listing

Mynah; The Eleventh Hour; Libra; The Poor Fisherman; MAT-Matt; Levels; Momma Loves; Dave.

Personnel

Orrin Evans: piano; Vicente Archer: bass; Bill Stewart: drums; Immanuel Wilkins: saxophone, alto.

Album information

Title: The Magic of Now | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Smoke Sessions Records


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