There is no shortage of piano trios. A wide variety of seminal pianists have established a reputation in this venue. At times, it is challenging to differentiate from the template of being the next McCoy Tyner or Bill Evans. Orrin Evans has pushed the envelope. His recent catalogue at Posi-Tone boasts a diverse and eclectic prerogative. Straight trio (Faith In Action), frenetic socio-political dialectic (Tarbaby’s End Of Fear) and dynamic large sound (Captain Black Big Band) have defined a jazz practitioner who is pursuing his own vision.
Freedom is a textured, stylish piano trio project. Philadelphia (Evans’ hometown) is the central element to the recording. Most of the compositions and musicians emanate from the rich traditions of jazz from this gritty urban community. From the opening, rhythmic undercurrents of Charles Fambrough’s “One For Honor”, it is evident that there is a significant cohesive dynamic within the trio. Evans sets up his fast-paced runs with chords, and it just swings. The tempo is sustained and fades into a delicate finish. A cover of Shirley Scott’s “Oasis” is imbued with strong percussion, thanks to the tandem of Byron Landham and Anwar Marshall. This seems to launch several flashy, syncopated piano riffs. “Shades Of Green” keeps the momentum, but in a more relaxed bop arrangement. Landham drumming and cymbal strokes mesh effortlessly with the different piano expressions.
Bassist Dwayne Burno contributes a “cool” jazz piece, “Gray’s Ferry” (those familiar with West Philadelphia should recognize the suggestion). The ensemble morphs to quartet as Larry McKenna offers a smooth lead on tenor saxophone. This bluesy jam evokes some of the imagery of the early sixties jazz combos. Evans’ solo is graceful and soulful. McKenna surfaces again on the cover of the 1947 Jule Styne standard, “Time After Time”. Evans’ own “Dita” is a distinctive change of pace. The ethereal haunting ballad draws on the almost hypnotic subtlety of the piano lead. Burno injects a supple nuanced bass riff. With the unique drum work of Landham, the spacey effect is organic and unconventional. A lyrical elegant rendition of Herbie Hancock’s “Just Enough” is an appropriate finale to this native homage.
For those who favor piano trios, (or have grown tired of them), Freedom will be invigorating.