CD Review: Orrin Evans Trio

Flip The Script
Reviewed by JJ Wheeler

Orrin Evans is a name you may or may not have heard of. He’s one of those guys who is well known in clubs around New York, landing fairly high profile slots in American festivals and occasionally touring abroad with his Trio or as a side-man. Well respected, he’s ever quite had the breakthrough of similarly-aged contemporaries such as Brad Mehldau or Jason Moran, yet his experience as a leader is strong.

And so we come to his 17th release in 19 years. Phew, he’s working hard and I want to know why he isn’t better known over here? Personally, I thought his last album Freedom, a mainly tenor saxophone quartet affair, was strong but never seemed to gain as much recognition as it deserved.

This record is about as American-contemporary-hard-swinging-time-changing-roast as you can get. It’s big (yes, even a piano trio can sound huge), melodic, bluesy, metric modulating and anything but apologetic. There’s the mixture of modern techniques with classic bop traits, groove and language. And you can tell that the recording session (as with most Posi-Tone records) was a “get in, play your ass off, capture it and release it” job, which makes the finished product about as close to a live recording as you’ll get. This certainly gives it a bit of a buzz and there’s a vibrancy and energy to the whole record that can leave you happily smiling away for hours.

There’s even the classic “Whoooooa!” moment of ecstasy that any great pianist can give you  with the right voicings if you crank up the stereo for the blazing four-chord vamp at the start of Clean House. Of course, in now time-honoured tradition, this vamp is re-visited as a coda, over which drummer Donald Edwards puts in his finest moment on the record; a classic multi-metered ripper of a drum solo.

The collection of mainly originals with a standard, a pop cover and a theme is, again, a piano trio cliche. And it’s here we finally realise why such talent hasn’t quite been elevated to international stardom. Everything about the playing and compositional ability of Orrin Evans deserves accolade, akin to players from McCoy Tyner (check out the quartal voicings all over Luther Vandross’ A Brand New Day and the following TC’s Blues) to the melodic and almost song-like arranging of Robert Glasper.

The whole record is strong and extremely well delivered, but if you’re searching for something ground-breaking and new in piano trio music, this isn’t it. Perhaps this answers our question, but it is still worth adding to your collection if you like all of the aforementioned pianists’ trios.

Categories: CD review

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