Orrin Evans – Faith in Action – Posi-Tone PR 8058, 55:37 ****:
(Orrin Evans, piano; Luques Curtis, bass; Nasheet Waits, drums; Rocky Bryant, drums on track #3, and Gene Jackson, drums on tracks #5 & #9)
I must admit that I take a pass on many piano trio CDs. My first love are brass and reeds when it comes to jazz. Not to say that I do not review and enjoy piano trio and solo piano releases. I’ve got a large wall shelf to prove that fact. However, the pianist must have a trait that appeals to me. Whether it be the touch of a Hank Jones or Bill Evans, the intensity of a Keith Jarrett, or possibly the swing of a Cedar Walton, John Hicks, or Kenny Barron.
I have been hearing a steady buzz about Orrin Evans from both musicians and fans. His admirers had been telling me that I was missing someone special. A peek at his new Posi-Tone CD, Faith in Action, revealed the fact that Nasheet Waits was the primary drummer. After being blown away by Nasheet’s drumming for Dave Douglas at the just-completed Portland Jazz Festival, I knew it was time to see what all the buzz was about regarding Orrin Evans. With a focus on hard bop and a reported influence by Monk, Powell, Silver, and Tyner, I was intrigued. Capped by the rave write-up by one of my favorites, Bobby Watson, in the liner notes, and the fact that half of the disc’s tracks were composed by Watson, it was due time to check our Orrin.
Well, now I can kick myself for waiting so long. The opening track, Don’t Call Me Wally, hit me immediately. Evans’ intensity, swing, and creative playing were in full evidence. No dull piano trio here! Evans swings and keeps you on your toes. Watson’s title track is a reflective reading that features Nasheet Waits’ crisp cymbal work.
Producer Marc Free and engineer Nick O’Toole have done a superb job with the CD’s soundstage. Each instrument is miked well and the mix has a live in-studio monitor sound.
Rocky Bryant handles the drum duties on Wheel Within a Wheel and spurs Orrin on. Both sparkling piano runs and a highly rhythmic touch make Evans fascinating to follow. No background dinner music here. Luques Curtis is also deep into the mood that Orrin is laying out. The interaction between the trio’s members is intense. The same can be said for Watson’s well known Appointment in Milano.
Matthew’s Song brings down this intensity a notch, and Evans’ touch alternates between gentle and full force. The other guest drummer, Gene Jackson, is on par with his drum mates in being more than a time keeper.
Beattitudes follows and brings out Orrin’s lyrical abilities. It’s a beautiful track. Another of my favorite Bobby Watson compositions, Love Remains, is a gorgeous ballad where Curtis and Evans set a romantic mood.
Two Steppin’ With Dawn (likely written for Evans’ wife, vocalist, Dawn Warren) and Why Not, written by Dawn, close out the CD. Two Steppin’ has a Monkish feel, while Why Not has a melody that would be suitable for a bigger band arrangement.
Faith in Action is consistently intriguing due to Evans piano skills and the interaction between the rest of the rhythm section. Each member is an integral member of the proceedings and not just keeping time.
Mighty glad I entered the world of Orrin Evans. Now, I’ve got to check out his work that includes horns….
TrackList: Don’t Call Me Wally, Faith in Action, Wheel Within a Wheel, Appointment in Milano, Matthew’s Song, Beattitudes, MAT-Matt, Love Remains, Two Steppin With Dawn, Why Not
– Jeff Krow