The Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein II standard “All The Things You Are” frames the new album by pianist Orrin Evans. The trio prelude version with Christian McBride on bass and Karriem Riggins on drums is a bubbly interpretation and so much different from the Springtime Feathers version which has Orrin and his wife on layered vocals backed by an R&B beat. And finally, vocalist JD Walter is featured on a slowed-down version for the album’s closer.
Each band member gets ample solo space on the original “For Miles” which is not dedicated to Miles Davis, but rather to his oldest son, Miles Tsagli, according to the liner notes. A second track, “Tsagli’s Lean”, honors him later as well. Orrin manages to find new spins on the worn-out “Autumn Leaves” which also shows why Christian is simply one of the best bassists around as he comes up with a lively and imaginative solo.
The band goes country by adding guitarist Marvin Sewell on the folk song “Wildwood Flower” from 1860, probably best known by the Carter Family. Here, Marvin plays around with circling chords and Orrin comes up with a haunting arrangement. “Sweet Sid”, written by bassist Jonathan Michel and dedicated to pianist Sid Simmons, offers more of those dynamic group interplay and cool, individual vocabulary.
But Orrin is far away from simply being a great straight-ahead pianist. With “Jewels & Baby Yaz”, written by trumpeter Jafar Barron, and his own “Iz Beatdown Time”, he includes hip-hop and soul influences as well. And “Spot It You Got It” cries out for a lyric; the dynamic on this one is simply inspiring. The Philadelphia-themed album also includes a track by saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr., like Sid Simmons and Christian McBride also from Philly as is Orrin himself. “A Secret Place”, from Grover’s 1976 album of the same name which topped the Billboard Jazz charts, comes with the funky backbeat of the original, processed by a soulful version adding Marvin again on guitar. This version excitingly captures the mid-70s sound and spirit and mystery. The original had Dave Grusin on piano, Anthony Jackson on bass, and Harvey Mason on drums. And Marvin echoes the brilliant guitar solo of Eric Gale while Orrin is painting some beautiful pictures in the mix.
There is more soulful and lyrical playing on the beautiful midtempo “Ruby Red” and the intensive “Professor Farworthy” (one of the album’s highlights) and a lot of joy and fooling around on “Tsagli’s Lean”.
Orrin is on tour with the great David Murray and his Infinity Quartet featuring Saul Williams and plays various European cities like Mannheim (Enjoy Jazz Festival Oct 14th), Grenoble (Oct 17th), Vienna (Oct 23rd), and Amsterdam (Oct 28th).