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Orrin Evans: …It Was Beauty

Orrin Evans works with one drummer and four different bassists on …It Was Beauty, all of whom have played with the pianist in different ensembles. While Eric Revis plays on most of the tracks, Luques Curtis and Alex Claffy each get their turn and Ben Wolfe joins Revis on two tracks that manage to flow easily and avoid getting too busy in the low end. All of this is significant because the album’s mood shifts with nearly every track, emphasizing how equally adept Evans sounds in different situations.

The album’s programming bears this out, since only two of the 10 tracks were written by Evans. Evans turns Ornette Coleman’s “Blues Connotation” into a New Orleans groove; reveals his deep spirituality in Andraé Crouch’s hymn “My Tribute,” with Claffy’s assistance; and slows Hoagy Carmichael’s “Rockin’ Chair” down to a crawl to give it a deeper examination. The dual basses of Revis and Wolfe work as an anchor and a countermelody, respectively, in “African Song,” leaving plenty of space for drummer Donald Edwards to cut loose. “Commitment,” an excerpt from a longer Evans original, never gets overly heavy either, and shows the deep variety of moods inherent in Evans’ piano work, by turns weighty and gentle but always enthralling. If anyone released an album this year that’s more diverse yet coherent, I’d like to hear it.

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