Charles Evans’ Subliminal Leaps — to be released September 10 on More is More Records — presents the seasoned baritone saxophone artist as a unique voice in the creative music community. On this audacious new project, written specifically for soprano saxophone great David Liebman, Evans has devised methods of combining chromatic harmony, serial writing, and free improvisation employing the rare combination of the baritone and soprano saxophones.
It is widely known that Liebman put down the tenor saxophone for fifteen years to fully actualize his desire for a personal soprano voice. Evans, the apprentice, has followed Liebman’s lead in many ways. Specifically, the exclusive devotion to the soprano’s distant lower relative, the baritone, for over fifteen years has rendered him ready for profound creation with the premiere living soprano master.
The baritonist has worked diligently to broaden the expressive range of his instrument, with specific care towards the difficult altissimo register as well as the application of chromatic improvisation/composition on the big horn. This is strengthened by the use of freely associated triads, intervals, and chromatic lines in polyphonic improvisation with the other members of the group. As Evans notes in the liner-notes, the quartet members truly leave their egos at the door, beautifully expressing and understanding the composer’s musical vision.
Accompanying the saxophonists are two musicians that are masters in their own right. Bassist Tony Marino, through his longtime tenure in various Liebman groups, brings a level of artistry on the upright that is rarely matched. His experience, and ability to adapt to the challenges of both the improvisational and written material, was indispensable in this undertaking. Pianist Ron Stabinsky proves to be the glue to the ensemble, bringing an incredible precision to the notation, along with a creative versatility to each movement of the piece.
Evans’ music is genre nonspecific and avoids employing the traditional jazz vocabulary. The combination of jazz instruments, 20th century classical techniques and harmonies, and free improvisation demonstrate Evans' refusal to be limited or allow his music to be pigeonholed. Compositionally, the music grew from very strict 12-tone serialism (the specific row can be heard in the bass on the outset of “Certain Soprano.”) Other then the poly-chord progressions used, all melodic material in the piece, from the dreamy sonorities of “Dreamed-Out March” to the subtle and intentionally hidden piano and baritone unisons in “Subliminal Leaps,” were constructed through Webern-inspired 12-tone strictness. Indeed, the combination of the structural cohesion of Schoenberg’s compositional rigidities with the looseness of spontaneous improvisation has created a work of profound meaning and expression.
“Subliminal Leaps,” a composition written for Liebman’s specific instrumental voice, utilizes devices with him in mind, many of which were cultivated and refined in past years by the innovative saxophonist. Several poly-chord progressions are featured in the piece. “Mahler Method” is another fine example of the actualization of Evans’ writing within Liebman’s personal unique language, with all parties demonstrating profound and introspective improvisations.
Subliminal Leaps was recorded at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, where Live at St. Stephens, Evans’ duo album with pianist Neil Shah, was also recorded.
Charles Evans was raised in a small town named Factoryville, Pennsylvania. He began intensive baritone saxophone study with the late Bill Zaccagni at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. During this time he also studied with David Liebman, who instilled an artistic mindset in the young baritonist and inspired him to pursue music to his fullest potential. Following Liebman’s cue, Evans moved to New York, where he received a master’s degree in jazz performance while studying with Antonio Hart. Shortly thereafter, he completed the Music Education program at Queens College for state certification.
Evans began his recording career with a widely sought-after reading of classic Ballads (GreatBend) ten years ago. He subsequently formed a critically acclaimed microtonal bebop band called The Language Of. Featuring trumpeter Peter Evans and Mostly Other People Do the Killing’s bandleader/bassist, Moppa Elliott, the group has released two recordings, It Needs It (Hot Cup) and No Relation (GreatBend.) Evans calls their style of improvisation (rapidly oscillating between bebop vernacular and extended-techniques) “light-switch bebop.”
Evans’ March 2009 multi-layered solo baritone saxophone release, "The King of All Instruments" earned wide praise including 5 stars in DownBeat Magazine and helped catapult Evans to a place on the 57th Annual Critics Poll as a "Rising Star" of the baritone saxophone. As Hank Shteamer said in his Time Out New York review: "Evans is dead serious about getting the most out of his regal horn. Hypnotic and, in spots, powerfully creepy, it's a singular statement from a composer expressing profound art." And in jazzreview.com Susan Frances noted: "In Charles Evans' hands, the baritone saxophone is truly capable of creating works of art that mesmerize audiences."
Perhaps it could be said that the baritone saxophone has a new leader, one who sees possibilities previously unexplored. As Jakob Baekgaard (NY Jazz Record) said about Evans’ duo release with Shah, ”…(music) of otherworldly beauty that both references and transcends the room in which it was played. Not only an artifact, a souvenir of a long forgotten event, Live at St. Stephens (HotCup) is a timeless work of art.” Sublime, subtle yet soaring, Charles Evans has used the very same atmosphere to create a unique and expressive work of art once again, with the release of Subliminal Leaps (MIM 132).