Thinking about how to approach his next album, pianist, composer and bandleader Orrin Evans admitted he was ready to try something different. Paying homage to musicians he had worked with and admired, was a part of Evans’ vision for the album, “The Red Door,” recently released on Smoke Sessions Records on June 16.
“Honoring those people and to continue keeping their legacies alive, I am really about that,” Evans said in a recent interview. “I also wanted to do a record with people that I love or even people I had some kind of issue with that I want to clear up right now.”
Evans assembled two core bands for “The Red Door.” One had the rhythm section of bass legend Buster Williams and veteran drummer Gene Jackson, joined by the late trumpeter Wallace Roney or Philly legend Larry McKenna on tenor saxophone. The other was a quintet with trumpeter Nicholas Payton, saxophonist and flutist Gary Thomas, bassist Robert Hurst and drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith. In addition, the album features guest appearances by vocalists Jazzmeia Horn, Sy Smith and Alita Moses.
The vocalists shine. Singer and songwriter Horn is featured on “Big Small,” composed by Evans and Bill McHenry. There is an opening interplay between bassist Hurst, drummer Williams and Evans on piano. Horn comes in with a style that can be described as singing around the notes.
Moses lends her intentional vocals to a slowed-down delicate version of Stevie Wonder’s “They Won’t Go When I Go.”
Evans’ piano intro to “Amazing Grace” allows for Smith’s multi-octave vocals softly punching through the chords, then you recognize the melody. I just wanted this jazz interpretation of a beloved spiritual to last a little longer.
Trumpeter Wallace Roney is prominently featured on “All the Things You Are,” a jazz standard that is arranged with an upbeat tempo than previous recordings of this 1939 Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II composition. Roney attended Duke Ellington School of the Arts in D.C. and graduated from Howard University. Roney died in March 2020, three weeks after this song was recorded.
With Evans on piano, Williams on bass and Jackson on drums, “All the Things You Are” is a wonderful way to understand why other top musicians respected Roney.
There are many positive moods on “The Red Door,” with each one reinforcing Evans’ exceptional talent. In addition to working on his own projects, he also has time to be the artist-in-residence for DC JazzFest.
Evans was asked to be in that role early during the pandemic, which he admitted was an interesting time to join anything.
“When people ask me what my role is, my quick answer has been to learn,” Evans said. “I’d never been an artist-in-residence, so my thing was to listen.”
Evans will put his touch on several sessions during this year’s DC JazzFest.
Source: Washington Informer