Orrin Evans Searches for 'The Evolution of Oneself,' Smoke Sessions Records (REVIEW)
It's a Philly thing, man. It's also a family thing. For his 26th album, pianist Orrin Evans has formed his dream trio. Fellow Philadelphian bassist Christian McBride (on his way to becoming his generation's Ron Carter) and drummer Karriem Riggins have come together for the first time on CD for a very personal statement from Evans. The Evolution of Oneself (Smoke Sessions Records) documents the circuitous musical journey that this exemplary musician has traversed.
How bold to include not one, not two, but three distinctly different versions of the Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein 1939 chestnut "All The Things You Are." Before anyone gets scared off, be assured the results are wildly entertaining. With son Matthew Evans, 17, producing, Orrin and wife Dawn recite these lyrics like a wedding vow over an electronica trap that captures the two souls in midair. It's a nifty 1:44 and it comes as the 17th track, only to be followed by the 6:47 closing rendition of the same song. This time, things are slowed down and sexed up. The track features McBride's bowed bass and guest vocalist JD Walter moaning like a long-lost lovers. Considering the CD opens with the same song as a 2:22 prelude, repetition, in this case, does not warrant disappointment -- just the opposite. The melody is so time-worn that its insistence upon reappearing is an advantage to the CD as a whole.
Slide guitarist Marvin Sewell plays a bluesy figure to accentuate "Wildwood Flower." Written in 1860, it was popularized by The Carter Family in 1928. Grover Washington Jr.'s "A Secret Place" is lovingly recreated. Grover lived in the same Philly neighborhood as Orrin, but the two never recorded together. Then there's Philly trumpeter Jafar Barron's "Jewels and Baby Yaz" that adds a neo-soul twinge. Another Philly stalwart, Sid Simmons, a man who taught and invested youngsters for years with the proper jazz attitude and chops, gets props with "Sweet Sid." Add "Autumn Leaves" and a half-dozen Orrin originals, and you've got Orrin's own road to self-discovery.