Tag Archives: orrin evans

Orrin Evans: Small, Medium, Large

The pianist celebrates the arrival of Flip The Script – a powerhouse trio disc – with a three night run with three different bands at the Jazz Standard. VOICE CHOICE

Phil Freeman has a big chat with Orrin

Box Score: Five Best Moments of Last Night’s Undead Fest

1. Tarbaby’s Can of Whup-Ass 

They opened it, they laid it on the floor, and then they stomped the holy hell out of it. The rhythm section is a modern miracle of power-swing, rocking with a Claymore mine explosiveness (and an Art Ensemble playfulness). Oliver Lake’s blowtorch sounded like it had been part of the unit for years. 

2. Tyshawn Sorey’s Drum Kit

The Paradoxical Frog drummer works in a series of hushes (when he’s not working in a series of thuds) and his percussion needs are specific. Long story short, he’s a soundscapist who knows exactly which tools are necessary. But the array of tiny cymbals, sideways toms and clatter devices was amazing, in a Duchamp/Goldberg/Bennink kind of way. Maybe the best part was when he was rubbing the thigh of his jeans for a texture-specific whhhhzzzzzttt.

3. Andrew D’Angelo’s Poem For Felicia Wilson

Music is the healing power of the universe, and the saxophonist knows about its many truths. So after having his Big Band roil ‘n’ roll through an ultra-tight set of knotty charts (be on the look out for crazyman Josh Sinton), he sent out a smooch for dear friend currently embroiled with deep medical issues. The theme lilted, then it soared. And those who sang along offered personal prayers. Somewhere in Baldwin, a woman was kissed on the cheek and patted on the back. 

4. Michael Blake’s Basie Nod

The saxophonist had just finished taking the Carpenters through a “Chasing The Trane” excursion, and he wanted to say goodnight to his audience. Pretty has always been in his wheelhouse (make sure his spin on Bean’s “Maria” is in your wheelhouse), and “Blue and Sentimental,” the simple blues treat by the Count’s crew was unlike anything else I heard all evening. Old school lyricism and three-way (Royston/Allison) swing at its simplest and most effective. Nuanced, bittersweet, gorgeous. “Don’t forget that Basie played on Bleeker Street, too,” said Blake.

5. Goldfinger’s Goodbye

In the first 90 seconds of the set, David Torn had a ghostly fog hovering three feet above the stage, but he was getting ready to pierce it. A stomp or two on his foot pedals and blammo, a scream from the upper, upper, upper register. Tim Berne hadn’t made a sound yet, but when Torn let his siren wail, the saxophonist wasn’t a split-second behind. They announced their arrival with a long-held note that didn’t waver one iota for three or four minutes. Frightening in a way, but that fog was still there to give you an earthly point of reference. 

and would you like a 6th one? It’s on me…

Five Vivid Moments @ Winter JazzFest

Small moves can create big pictures. There were several full sets I dug at Winterfest, but within them are many more curt passages or pithy exchanges that are still bubbling through my mind today. And they are…


The veteran improviser was leading JD Allen’s VISIONFUGITIVE! through an array of conductions, and things were going well. Rapt attention from his charges; inventive motifs that employed continuity and juxtaposition in equal measure. But part of the Jazzfest process is perform for perspective arts programmers, so in a nifty moment of wiseacre pragmatics, he flung out some cheat sheets regarding his innovative hand-signal system, and took time to verbally break down the way he gesturally interacts with his team. The set’s music was one of the most fun I’ve seen from him. That baton is really a magic wand, right?


The band Bad Touch is comprised of saxophonist Loren Stillman, guitarist Nate Radley, organist Gary Versace and drummer Ted Poor. They play intricate pieces that nod to funk beats, wink to rock rhythms, and genuflect to the nuances of steady dynamic shifts. Precision is at their core. Well, it didn’t take long for their intra-band connections to start crackling, but one particular passage by the keyboardist proved his skills as an agent provocateur.  As the group was mildly disassembling a groove, Versace bent over the instrument with a madman look on his face. Instantly he turned drummer, chopping the action with staccato chords that turned up the heat and opened a new pathway for his mates to slip away on.


When drummers Eric McPherson and Nasheet Waits connect with saxophonist Abraham Burton, they call themselves Aethereal Base, which to some degree is about “changing atmospheres and textures.” Don’t know what you call it when McPherson’s MIA, but Nasheet had very little problem becoming Burton’s lone locomotive at Kenny’s Castaways late Saturday. The saxophonist reached the conclusion of a roaring exchange with his partner, and Waits began to develop a cymbal-less drum solo that worked a “simple” African pattern into a deeply detailed drama that blended repetition and substitution. At one point his hands were moving quicker than a dude running a Times Square shell game. Glorious.


Matt Wilson was using every part of his drum set when I walked into The Bitter End towards the end of the entire weekend. Saxophonist Noah Preminger had begun his set with Ornette’s “Toy Dance,” and Wilson had a harmolodic flurry of splash cymbals, tom-toms, snare, and high-hat bringing the noise. But the way bassist John Hebert was whirling and bouncing and swinging with his instrument is what stuck in my head. Up on one heel, down with a bit of a leap; the bassist bobs and weaves as he created his lines, which were short yet liquid phrases that spilled into one another to assist with the group’s momentum. Yep, he did some dancing of his own.


The pianist’s Captain Black Big Band said farewell to some of Philly’s recently fallen, and tipped the hat to the kind of large ensembles that like to swagger while they swing. At a wall-to-wall Sullivan Hall, they landed punch after punch – four trombones throwing lots of whomp into the cascading lines of the leader’s arrangements. Or was the up-front charisma of Evans himself that boosted the energy. Leaning forward to exclaim a great solo, standing up to bark out his exuberance, swaying and skipping when the music got to be wild enough to impress even him, he was one of the most physically demonstrative leaders of the weekend.

Also Vivid: Jeff Lederer‘s opening tenor salvo with Bigmouth’s set; if you’ve only got 50 minutes, kill ’em from the start. Avishai Cohen‘s trumpet blast at the tail end of his sister’s LPR set; a fierce assault that had no prob showing its sweet side. The grace of Jacky Terrasson’s bassist Ben Williams; during one of the pianist’s Jarrett-esque tearjerkers, Williams brought loads of slippery beauty to the table. Charles Gayle‘s fire; I wasn’t even watching the saxophonist’s trio (couldn’t make it close enough to the stage), but even while rolling through yadda-yadda-yadda conversations with pals in the back, the band reached out and shook me three or four times. That’s power.

Five Don’t-Miss Shows @ Winter Jazzfest

You’ll be schmoozing with people and chat too long; you’ll be so rapt by one particular act that you’ll space on seeing another; or you’ll be arriving way too late to cram into one of the five cozy venues that comprise this weekend’s  Winter Jazzfest bash.  So: you’ll need a plan to wade through all that competition (over 60 acts are hitting this year). Here are five ensembles that warrant a bit of pushing and shoving.

Orrin Evans’ Captain Black Big Band:

The Philly pianist fine-tuned his large ensemble at his home base’s Chris’ Cafe, and by the time they recorded their forthcoming disc,  they had a tight grip on very physical material Evans put together. This is a group that lets it blast, whether grooming the sound in a wall of consonance, or erupting in an exquisite frenzy.

Mike Pride’s From Bacteria To Boys:

The energy always starts with the trap set in this muscular foursome. Drummer Pride is a fountain of ideas, stuffing lots of sound into his tunes. On 2010’s way impressive Betweenwhile (AUM Fidelity), the group proves that a measured approach can also build towards climatic moments. As a matter of fact, saxophonist Darius Jones is an expert at exactly that, taking his steely alto lines from refined to raging in a just a moment or two.

Steve Coleman’s Five Elements:

At last year’s affair, before the killer Harvesting Semblances And Affinities (Pi) was released, a clutch of critics stood together and chuckled out loud at how deeply interactive the saxophonist’s group became after just five or so minutes. Black science, indeed. They’re radically tight, so this dizzyingly intricate music doesn’t get away from ’em for a sec. The cross-hatched melodies, the kaleidoscopic rhythms – it all adds up to masterful ensemble ethic.

Kirk Knuffke Quartet:

Sometimes it seems that the trumpeter – who is becoming ubiquitous on the NYC scene with lots of work with Matt Wilson’s Quartet, Ideal Bread, and other recombinant local outfits – wants to see how wide a variety of sound his horn is capable of. But all his lines have have  purpose, and the fanciful freebop that he hops through on Bigwig (Clean Feed) has plenty of direction to it. His mates for this weekend’s romp are trombonist Brian Dye, bassist Mark Helias, and drummer Jeff Davis – each knows how to be both slippery and smart. Oh, and that’s a cornet the leader will be blowing.

Noah Preminger Quartet:

I dig his Ornette obsession, and applaud his judicious ballad choices. But I’m still trying to figure out how this sharp new(ish) tenor player can be both a staunch romantic and a skilled outcat at such a young age. A long listen to his forthcoming Before The Rain (Palmetto) will help explain things. It’s plush and piercing and plenty impressive.

Here’s the Voice blab.

Oh, the folks at A Blog Supreme have just thrown another five on the fire.

Strong, Strong, Strong

Orrin Evans never goes for the oke-doke, so even when introspection is in the air, it feels like someone’s squeezing your neck. The Philly pianist is a marvel; his expressionistic tendencies are implied, which makes ’em that much more forceful – here’s a hard-swinging guy who likes to erupt while sustaining a temperament of  logic and craft.

The trio maneuvers on the new Faith In Action (Posi-Tone) kind of spill all over you, especially the genial tug-of-war  between the boss and drummer Nasheet Waits. Ben Ratliff weighed in last week. Smart of the label for making the above clip, but it needs to be longer. Here’s an interview vid about the new music.