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Nate Chinen reviews Orrin Evans for the NYTimes…

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Questioning Everything in a Jazz Dialogue: Socratic, Dark and Stormy

Orrin Evans Trio at Jazz Standard

Orrin Evans began one tune in his second set at the Jazz Standard on Tuesday night with a solo piano reverie, ethereal with a touch of the ominous, like Duke Ellington in a sepulchral mood. His dark but delicate sonorities slowly gathered force, until his left hand locked into a two-bar vamp evocative of a walking bass line. Seizing on the cue, the rest of his trio sprung into polyrhythmic action, pulling in several directions at once.

The tune was “The Answer,” one of the half-dozen by Mr. Evans on his forceful new album, “Flip the Script” (Posi-Tone). As unpacked in this set, it had as many soft/loud gearshifts as a Pentecostal sermon, or a Pixies song. Mr. Evans coaxed his fat, ringing sound out of the piano, occasionally calling up some closely held postbop precedent: the teasing chromaticism of Herbie Hancock, the stark modal thunder of McCoy Tyner. His playing was wily and alert, volatile but grounded, shot through with rough equilibrium.

Mr. Evans, a product of the Greater Philadelphia scene, has built a no-nonsense career out of such stuff: during a bantering interlude in the set, he noted that “Flip the Script” was his 19th album. “Neither of these cats are on the record,” he then disclaimed, indicating his bassist, Vicente Archer, and drummer, Obed Calvaire. “But they’re playing like they were on the record.” (Point taken.) He also noted that he’d planned on titling the album “Question and Answer” — in addition to “The Answer,” it includes a twisty theme called “Question” — until he remembered that Pat Metheny already had an album by that name.

His first impulse was a good one, since so much about his style calls the Socratic method to mind. But “Flip the Script” works too. Mr. Evans likes dialectical argument and declarative inquiry: in his bands he often plays the part of a strong-willed instigator.

The nature of his approach was clear from the start of this set, in a version of the standard “Autumn Leaves” so radically reharmonized that it only registered in the final stretch. Leading up to that reveal, the trio maintained the energy level of a lidded pot boiling over — but Mr. Evans, even in his most Tyner-esque jags, was hinting at a shape all along. (He has recorded the song before, but not like this.) There was as much emphasis but less suspense in the trio’s clangorous, full-tilt arrangement of “A Brand New Day,” from “The Wiz.” And there was more elastic mystery in an original ballad called “When.”

Tuesday was the start of a three-night stand for Mr. Evans, with a different group nightly. On Thursday he’ll be leading his Captain Black Big Band, which takes a heavy-gauge approach to Mr. Evans’s core strategy of intelligent combustion.


Written by editor

July 20th, 2012 at 10:23 am

Posted in Reviews

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