Listen to the Band

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Criss Cross
PERFORMER: Orrin Evans (p), Duane Eubanks (t), Sam Newsome (ss), Ralph Bowen (as, ts), Reid Anderson (b), Nasheet Waits (d)
CATALOGUE NO: 1195 (distr. Proper)

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Orrin Evans’s fourth set for Criss Cross may be just a shade below the standard of the superlative Captain Black and Grown Folk Bizness, but it’s still a record that resounds with excitement and is the work of a marvellous imagination. The opening treatment of ‘I Want to be Happy’ is typical: Vincent Youmans’s song is somehow summoned from a free improvisation, the melody never directly stated, its opening measures used as a kind of motif that Evans and his group ingeniously reconfigure.

The gorgeous harmonies of ‘In His Place’ are the vehicle for a series of surpassingly thoughtful improvisations. Original tunes such as ‘For Miles’ and Anderson’s ‘Forgiven’ are fresh and skilful shows of compositional strength, but it’s the way the young pianist leads his group of seasoned but still young musicians that impresses: they’re foot-perfect in these challenging frameworks, without seeming to fall back on mere technical aplomb.

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Newsome and Bowen take pains to avoid the obvious, and there should be a special word for Nasheet Waits’s scintillating drums. As for Evans himself, the piano solo ‘There Is a Quiet Place’ is pure rapture. More evidence that this generation of New York players is making the most essential jazz of today. Richard Cook