Friday, October 14, 2011

Orrin Evans: Freedom

Orrin Evans (piano) 
Freedom (Posi-Tone Records; 2011)
Byron Landham (drums)
Anwar Marshall (drums)
Larry Mckenna (sax)
Dwayne Burno (bass)

This has been a revealing or may even an extremely eye-opening year for me when it comes to Orrin Evans. I have always liked his music but never fully focused my attention on it in such detail as I have this year. With the release of Captain Black earlier this year, and a number of constructive arguments with fellow fans I have finally decided to pay attention. So when his latest release, Freedom, came out I have to say I was more eager to listen and I concentrated on every note.  I also have to say it is all worth it.

Freedom is one of the tightest and most well focused sessions from Evans in years. It's a tribute to a few of his influences and members he has performed with in the past.  This is essentially a trio record with McKenna adding some full-bodied and blues-like emotion to two tracks ("Gray's Ferry" and "Time After Time"). His playing feels like a young fearless Ben Webster. He packs a punch, especially on "Time After Time" in which Evans gives him rolling freedom throughout the opening few minutes before rising into the forefront with a potent dexterity that keeps the tune jumpin'. Both Burno and Landham (drums on this number), adds a lot of rich and fast paced texture to the number to really give it a timeless quality.

"One For Honour" rips along softly but with an uptempo theme. Evan's allows Burno and Marshall (drums) to lead the way. And they really craft this Charles Fambrough number into their own. Evans' performance is fierce, fluid and bright. "Oasis", written by Shirley Scott, contains an infectious rumba applied by Landham. Evans gives a steady hand to guide the melody. Burno pumps in some really nice patterns along the bassline.

While the album has its modern bebop sensibilities, Evans manages to round things off with calming effects on Herbie Hancock's "Just Enough." This soulful ballad pulls Evans in both classical (by technique) and jazz (by emotion and theme) directions and he gently guides the listener out from what has been a vibrant and fun journey.

Freedom is a strong statement and return to a small group format that helps Evans compositional skills shine as well as the talents of his band members. This year has really turned me around on the work of Orrin Evans and I hope everyone else too. Solid stuff indeed.

The first video is a great, interesting and fun look at the who, what and where of Evans' history.

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