A serious-minded jazz pianist and A-list player, Orrin Evans is a strong talent from Philadelphia who joins a long line of jazz musicians that come from the City of Brotherly Love. Since his debut recording in 1994, Evans’ resume reveals an ever-growing list of ambitious achievements as a recording artist, producer, bandleader, composer and teacher. And his current numerous groups include the Captain Black Big Band, Tar Baby, LuvPark, the LikeMind Collective and more side man gigs on record and in performance than one can count.
Evans’ 20th album overall, and seventh for the independent Criss Cross label, ...It was Beauty, is a trio record whose title will be familiar to anyone who remembers the ending to the original film version of King Kong. The album’s playlist is as restless as it is varied, with alternating bassists and drummers (primarily, Eric Revis and Donald Edwards) to give voice to what Evans calls “the intensity of sensitivity.”
The date leads with “Black Elk Speaks,” a tune with a choice Herbie Nichols-like melody and an angular form that stretches time and tempo. From there, it’s a survey of compositional styles that may not flow as well as Evans’ previous record (the superb Flip The Script, Posi-tone, 2012) but nonetheless offers a compelling listening experience.
From the exotic beauty of “African Song” that Evans adorns with expressive waves of improvisation to the mischievous glee of “Dorm Life,” a quirky blues, the band is sharp with chops aplenty. The percussive, finger-popping groove of Ornette Coleman’s “Blue Connotation” contrasts beautifully with Hoagy Carmichael’s “Rockin’ Chair,” which is slowed down Shirley-horn style and gives one a chance to savor Evans’ deeply lyrical style.
Evans ends this eclectic album with a duo read of an Andrae Crouch spiritual (“My Tribute”) that’s touching, sentimental and delivers on the truest meaning of the recording’s title. (10 tracks; 58 minutes)
This article is from the October 2013 edition of ICON Magazine, the only publication in the Greater Delaware Valley and beyond solely devoted to coverage of music, fine and performing arts, pop culture, and entertainment. More Information.