Jazz pianist Orrin Evans has had quite the successful career over the span of the past quarter century. He has worked with the likes of Bobby Watson, Ralph Peterson, and Duane Eubanks over the course of that time. He has also released more than 20 albums as a band leader, the latest coming in 2019 in the form of The Intabgible Between. Now two years after its release, Evans is scheduled to release his latest album Friday in the form of The Magic of Now. Evans’ sixth album for the record label, Smoke Sessions, this record has plenty to offer Evans’ established audiences as well as more casual audiences and jazz fans in general. The record’s appeal begins with its featured arrangements. They will be discussed shortly. The record’s liner notes add their own touch to the presentation and will be addressed a little later. The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of this latest offering from Orrin Evans. All things considered, they make the album another positive offering from Evans that is certain to engage and entertain audiences.
Orrin Evans’ forthcoming album, The Magic of Now (his sixth for his current label, Smoke Sessions) is a work that will work its magic on audiences. Yes, that awful pun was intended. The album’s appeal is due in no small part to its featured arrangements. The arrangements featured in this 57-minute album are diverse in their sounds and stylistic approaches. Case in point is the comparison of ‘The Poor Fisherman’ to, say, ‘Levels.’ ‘The Poor Fisherman’ is a subdued, contemplative composition that is grounded in the pairing of Evans’ work on the piano and Immanuel Wilkins’ work on the alto saxophone. The duo’s performance here is the epitome of the old adage that it is more about the notes you don’t play than those that you do. The gentle approach that the pair takes here and the spaces between the notes creates such a rich mood. While the album’s liner notes offer little in the way of background here, one can almost envision a fisher out on sea, maybe on a trawler, standing on deck, chin on his hand as he ruminates on “What Ifs.” The arrangement here is simply that rich. By direct contrast, ‘Levels’ is a more upbeat composition. Wilkins’ work on the saxophone is the core of the arrangement while drummer Bill Stewart and bassist Vicente Archer add their own touches to the work alongside Evans on piano. Stewart’s ability to utilize every bit of his kit without losing a beat is impressive to say the least. Even the flare that he adds with the subtle cymbal crashes works so well here. At points, the group leans in something of a bop style direction, making for the noted contrast. That contrast is a clear example of the diversity in the album’s arrangements and hardly the only one. ‘Momma Loves,’ the album’s penultimate entry, presents a sound and stylistic approach that while it does have some bop leanings, also aims in a little bit of a smooth jazz direction. The balance of those two influences, anchored once more by the performance of Wilkins on alto saxophone, makes for its own unique presentation in comparison to the rest of the album’s works. As if that is not enough proof of the importance of the album’s arrangements, a listen to ‘Libra’ shows yet another unique work. The opening piano line, performed by Evans, conjures thoughts of Van Halen’s ‘Dreams.’ As the song progresses though, it starts to lean more in a free jazz direction, with Evans’ piano line and Stewart’s drumming starting to move all over the place. Interestingly enough, neither they nor their band mates miss even one beat or note along the way. The dichotomy here of those two distinctly different styles and sounds and their balance is something truly special and shows even more the noted diversity presented throughout the course of the album’s musical body. Between everything noted here and the rest of the album’s musical arrangements, the overall content forms a strong foundation for the record’s presentation. This is just one of the aspects that makes the album a success. The liner notes featured in the album add their own layer of appeal.
The liner notes featured in The Magic of Now – crafted by Angelika Beener — are important because of the background that they offer on each of the album’s songs. As noted already, not a lot of background is offered in regards to ‘The Poor Fisherman.’ What is offered however, is that its instrumentation is meant to create a narrative sense to the song. It succeeds in that approach, too. On another hand, the liner notes also point out that the arrangement that audiences hear in ‘Levels’ actually happened entirely by accident. The whole story will be left for audiences to learn themselves, but the brief explanation is that it involved the group recording the song while wearing masks, thus hindering communication between the musicians. Understanding all of this, one cannot help but agree that the result is still engaging and entertaining. It is one more example of how that background information enhances the album’s listening experience. Yet another example of the importance of the liner notes comes in the discussion on ‘The Eleventh Hour.’ According to the song’s brief but concise notes, the song was 25 years in the making. Needless the say, the quarter century wait was worth it. Here again, the full story of how it came to be included in the album will be left for audiences to learn for themselves. It is yet another way in which the album’s liner notes show their importance. It shows, along with the other addressed liner notes and those featured with the rest of the songs, how much they add to the album’s general effect and is just one more element that makes the album worth hearing. The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements.
The Magic Of Now’s sequencing is important in large part because of the run times in each song. The shortest of the nearly hour-long record’s seven total songs is three minutes, 43 seconds. It is the album’s closer. By contrast, the album’s longest track – its opener – clocks in at 13 minutes, 48 seconds. Between those two songs, the album’s songs range in time from eight to nine minutes each. This is important to note because it means that this album is not for audiences who have short attention spans. Those run times require audiences’ full attention. Now on an even deeper level, the content within those songs never really gets too slow or fast at any given point. So even with such long run times, the songs still manage to keep audiences engaged, even considering this aspect. On another level, the songs’ styles and energies change just enough from one to the next to ensure audiences are never left feeling bored or left behind, either. As has already been discussed, the arrangements offer a diverse range of sounds and approaches. The energies in those works is relatively stable from beginning to end. What’s more, the placement of ‘The Poor Fisherman’ and ‘Dave’ makes for solid breakpoints for the record. It changes things up just enough throughout that once more, audiences will have that much more appreciation for this record. When this is considered along with the impact of the album’s overall content, the whole makes The Magic of Now a presentation that will definitely cast its own spell on listeners.
Orrin Evans’ latest album, The Magic of Now is a presentation that audiences will agree is a positive new offering from the veteran jazz pianist. Its appeal comes in part through its featured musical arrangements. The arrangements feature a wide range of sounds and stylistic approaches. There is some free jazz, some cool jazz, and even some bebop featured throughout the course of the record’s seven total songs. That itself will appeal to plenty of audiences. The liner notes featured with the album add some interesting background to the songs. It is not necessarily the background that one might desire, in terms of the inspiration behind the songs, but it still provides its own appeal. The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements. It ensures audiences’ engagement and entertainment through a clear, planned layout in regards to the album’s energies and variance in sounds and styles. Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of this record. All things considered, these elements make The Magic of Now a presentation that Evans’ established audiences will enjoy just as much as new audiences and jazz fans in general. The Magic of Now is scheduled for release Friday through Smoke Sessions. More information on the album is available along with all of Orrin Evans’ latest news at https://orrinevansmusic.com
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