Orrin Evans has recorded for the Criss Cross and Palmetto labels, but he always seems to venture back to Imani Records, his own label. This is where Evans convenes his musicians and material of choice, whether working with his "funk-fusion-R&B-electric band Luvpark, in a piano trio setting, or with a larger acoustic group, as on Live at Widener University (Imani, 2005). This independent streak has resulted in Evans failing to receive the public acclaim he is due, but it has allowed him to control his own creative destiny.
On The Trio Live, Evans treads in familiar water by revisiting the piano trio format, this time in a live setting, where he can stretch out and display his unique and original voice on piano. For this outing Evans has chosen to work with his excellent long-time collaborator Byron Landham (drums) and Madison Rast (bass). The recording features six tracks, four Evans originals plus with "Autumn Leaves" and "Lift Every Voice and Sing." Evans has tackled several of the tracks previously, but they are given new life on this live release.
Each member of the band is allotted their respective moments in the spotlight on this album. Rast does an excellent job of holding down the bottom end and imparts gorgeous feel and tone to slower tunes, most notably the ballad "Libra." Landham, who is best known as Joey DeFrancesco's drummer, proves to be in perfect sympathy with Evans. His sense of time is unerring, he is capable of delivering bone-crunching bombs along with the most delicate brush work, and he provides kinetic spontaneity to the proceedings.
Seeing Evans live is a true event. His sheer joy cannot be contained. At the piano, sometimes standing while he plays, he claps, dances, cheers, prods and cajoles the band and audience equally. This release is the next best thing to seeing him in person. Clocking in at slightly over 75 minutes and with no tune less than eight minutes, there is not a bad note on the CD.
Dorm Life; Simply Green; Autumn Leaves; Lift Every Voice and Sing; Libra; Captains Prelude.