Orrin Evans – The Red Door – Smoke Sessions Records

by | Jun 25, 2023 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Something special from Orrin Evans…

Orrin Evans – The Red Door – Smoke Sessions Records #SSR-2305 – 62:21 – ****1/2

(Orrin Evans – piano; Nicholas Payton – trumpet; Gary Thomas – tenor sax, flute; Robert Hurst – bass; Marvin “Smitty” Smith – drums; Gene Jackson – drums. With guests: Larry McKenna – tenor sax (#4); Buster Williams – bass (#4, 9); Wallace Roney – trumpet (#9); Jazzmeia Horn – vocals (#5); Sy Smith – vocals (#7); Alita Moses – vocals (#11) )

Pianist Orrin Evans covers a lot of ground on his new Smoke Sessions Records release, The Red Door. It features an all-star quintet, as well as some special guests. He revisits his Pentecostal roots with “Amazing Grace,” given a soulful reading by vocalist, Sy Smith. Stevie Wonder’s “They Won’t Go When I Go,” also has gospel roots with young vocalist, Alita Moses, testifying with such passion.

The title track, which was also recorded by The Bad Plus, when Orrin had a short tenure with them, goes from in the pocket to some avant trumpet by Nicholas Payton. The other members dig in, spurred on by drummer, Marvin “Smitty” Smith. Evans has some Monkish lines as well.

The next two tracks, “Weezy,” and “Phoebe’s Stroll” were written by Evans for his goddaughters. The former has lyrical flute by Gary Thomas, while the latter is a rhythm section trio, with Evans showing his tender side.

“The Good Life” featuring one of Orrin’s mentors, tenor saxist, Larry McKenna, is an old school full throated tenor sax feature, that goes down so easily like a warm drink on a cold winter night. “Big Small,” a 12 bar blues, opens with a bass solo by Robert Hurst, before heading in dark dreamlike direction, with singer Jazzmeia Horn getting down and dirty about her man’s “failings.”

Simply divine is Orrin’s version of Randy Newman’s “Dexter’s Tune,” from the movie Awakenings. His use of space, caressing each note, is deeply moving. “All the Things You Are,” features the the final performance recording of trumpet great, Wallace Roney, done on March 11, 2020, two days before COVID lock down, and just two and half weeks before Roney suddenly passed away from complications of the virus. “Smoke Rings” follows, and is done to honor drummer Ralph Peterson, Jr., another jazz great who was taken from us much to early, in 2021 from cancer.

The CD closer, “I Have the Feeling I’ve Been Here Before,” written by pianist, Roger Kellaway, (along with iconic songwriters, Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman), much like “Dexter’s Tune,” highlights Orrin Evans’ ballad skills, with a touch so soulful that you want to give him a hug like a long lost friend.

This is a very special release that will please most any jazz fan. Highly recommended…

—Jeff Krow

Orrin Evans – The Red Door – Smoke Sessions Records

Tracklist:
The Red Door
Weezy
Phoebe’s Stroll
The Good Life
Big Small
Dexter’s Tune
Amazing Grace
Feed the Fire
All the Things You Are
Smoke Rings
They Won’t Go When I Go
I Have the Feeling I’ve Been Here Before

More information through Smoke Session Records

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Album Cover for Orrin Evans, The Red Door



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