Live at Widener University
This is decidedly not the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame group. It's a quintet led by Philly-based pianist Orrin Evans, who spices a mainstream sound with unexpected extremes. Just when he has spiraled into space with a solo, he adds a melodic hook that gives listeners a way into the music and reminds them he's still on their planet.
The double CD set is a hotbed of invention that is sometimes screechy, occasionally acidic and never boring. Now teaching at the prestigious Germantown Friends School, Evans is thoroughly conversant in the traditions of jazz and, better yet, full of ideas about how it can evolve - which makes him a rarity among his contemporaries. Evans, who will guest on a Piano Jazz session with host Marian McPartland on WRTI-FM (90.1) in mid-May, is a free-jazz throwback whose growing practical side makes this disc approachable and compelling.
The group's take of "Autumn Leaves" is a monumental effort that reinvents the melody in ways ranging from archly classical to wildly percussive. "Two Faces of Nasheet," featuring drummer Nasheet Waits, is wildly over-the-top, yet it too returns to the understandable. Soprano saxophonist Sam Newsome is a worthy foil, finding scales from all over the world and using them to add occasionally bizarre but invigorating skeins. Tenor saxophonist J.D. Allen and bassist Reid Anderson round out this fiendish unit, which makes jazz new again.
- Karl Stark, The Philadelphia Inquirer
After a few years, this dynamic trio from "Listen to the Band" on Criss Cross Jazz Records reunites, this time adding JD Allen in the mix with Sam Newsome. With a mix of originals, a standard and a popular gospel song, this performance captures the essence of live performance. It's what Jazz is all about.
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Orrin Evans endorses Baldwin/Gibson Pianos.
Hereis a link to a great article in the 4/2/04 newsletter:
Here is a link to a great article in their 2/6/04 Newsletter about this release:
Orrin Evans / The Band
Live At Widener University
by John Chacona
23 April 2004
Orrin Evans is an accomplished Philadelphia pianist who has somehow avoided the fame he seems destined for. This two-CD set offers a few clues as to why this might be so. The first is the location of the recording. Philadelphia has traditionally provided just enough work for musicians to keep them at home. It's a paradoxical situation. Any less work and Philadelphians would be forced to decamp for the more expensive and riskier-but also more potentially rewarding-New York scene. The second clue is found on the label; IMANI is Evans' own imprint. Like many musicians these days, he is passionate (and rightly so) about controlling his own creation, even if it means having a lower profile than musicians who trade their rights for the star-making muscle of a major label.
The Band is a cooperative (as a solo artist, Evans is signed to Palmetto), but Evans seems to be the leader. Yet, he is remarkably self-effacing for the 90-odd minutes of these two CDs, ceding most of the solo time to saxophonists J.D. Allen and Sam Newsome, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Nasheet Waits. In many ways, this sounds like Waits' date. He is the most consistent of the players and the most surprising. Moreover, he clears rhythmic space so that he can do what all the great drummers-even those who are not the nominal leaders-do, namely marshal the sounds of all the players to build musical sculpture. His solo on his father Freddie's "Two Faces of Nasheet" is a catalogue of modern drumming, textural, coloristic and intensely swinging. The tune, in seven, is straight out of Trane and tenorist J.D. Allen takes small motivic cells and worries them through harmonic labyrinths with Waits' friendly fire egging him on. It's a strong start to the set, as is Eric Revis' Branfordian "JD's Revenge", but the quality of the writing fails to hold up.
Will Calhoun's "Umoja" is a pretty, diatonic melody, almost too pretty, at least the way Newsome's soprano decorates it. "We Both Tried" (which has some very solid bass work from The Bad Plus' Anderson) and the waltz "WTC 911", are in the same vein-clear-eyed, tepid melodies that you can't remember halfway through the second chorus. In this context, the overfamiliar changes of "Autumn Leaves" come as a relief. Finally, something meaty to improvise on! Evans and Allen take up the challenge with fleet and complex solo statements.
ADDITIONAL BAND INFO:
The cd features Orrin Evans on piano, Nasheet Waits on the drums, who has been touring the world and recording with Jason Moran, Andrew Hill and Mark Turner to name a few. Bassist Reid Anderson, has just completed a whirlwind world tour with his own band "The Bad Plus", soprano saxophonist Sam Newsome, who has recorded and performed with Terrence Blanchard and recorded numerous cd's with his own world music band, and saxophonist JD Allen who performs and records and tours with Cindy Blackman, and also leads his own band on a number of cd's. The band members have each been working on numerous projects over the past couple of years, so this reunion of old friends will prove to be a timely look back.