Orrin Evans – #knowingishalfthebattle

Orrin Evans "#knowingishalfthebattle"There are new twists on pianist and composer Orrin Evans‘ new album – adding the guitars of Kurt Rosenwinkel and Kevin Eubanks is just one of them. The short electronic gimmicks over his piano lines on the opening and final title cuts show another face. The interaction of his piano, Kevin’s guitar and the sax work of Caleb Curtis on the Carla Bley tune “Calls” is a welcome entry into his new opus which sounds even more open and free-flowing than his still highly regarded last album “The Evolution Of Oneself” (check review on these pages).

Kurt Rosenwinkel can be heard on “When Jen Came In”, a tune which starts out fast and furious and evolves into something pretty unapologetic in its course with Kurt shying away from his usual frenzied soloing, but giving the piece more of a kinder structure. He even tames down completely, almost tenderly, on “Chiara”, a wonderful ten-minute ballad that features one of Orrin’s signature soulful, inventive, and always unreckoned solos. The support work of Luques Curtis on bass and Mark Whitfield, Jr. on drums is crisp and subtle throughout.

A welcome addition to this collection is the David Bowie song “Kooks”, from his 1971 LP “Hunky Dory”. It features singer M’Balia Singley whose last record was produced by Orrin (check review on these pages). Her involvement together with Kurt’s interacting chords to her vocals, is a real ear-opener here. The groove on this one is pretty sexy and the repetitiveness of the chorus which is constantly changed and alternated, is simply commanding.

We also get a heavy dose of free funk on “You Don’t Need A License To Drive” where Kevin Eubanks is at the wheel again, maneuvering the vehicle over rocky and bumpy paths. An almost theatrical performance is “Half The Battle” and the equally heroic and dramatic “Heavy Hangs The Head That Wears The Crown”, where both guitarists can be heard in conversational mode. The latter piece is coming over so utterly relaxed and talkative – it’s really something.

More cool and swinging stuff can be found on “Slife” and M’Balia is back for the only standard here, a captivating, soothing, very comforting interpretation of “That’s All” with sensitive and equally consoling playing by the leader. (She also recorded it on her own “Halfway There” album). And there is a nice lullaby at the end of this entertaining set, a track written for Luques Curtis‘s newborn child “Zeni Bea” who is featured here as well with her cry. It is a beautiful love song with Caleb on flute and celebrates life in a peaceful and optimistic way. A truly poignant little ode.

I can’t wait to see the group live in action on my next trip to New York. The Smoke Session Records Release Party will be held at the Jazz Standard, November 17th to 20th with two sets each night.




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