Orrin Evans ft. Antonio Hart & J.D. Walter

Pianist Orrin Evans takes stock of the pivotal moments that shape the trajectory of a life on The Evolution of Oneself, his scintillating new release on Smoke Sessions Records. The album is itself a landmark in Evans’ musical evolution, introducing a remarkable new piano trio with two longtime associates but first-time collaborators: bassist Christian McBride and drummer Karriem Riggins. The result is a raw and thrilling excursion incorporating a startlingly wide range of influences, from jazz and neo-soul to country and hip-hop.

As suggested by the title, The Evolution of Oneself explores deeply personal terrain, with Evans reflecting on the road he’s traveled to become the man and musician he is today. “This album is about personal evolution,” he explains. “For me, there have been different moments or people in my life that have made me evolve. You can call it change, but ultimately you’re still the same person from the day you came out of your mother’s womb. But you evolve, and that process is what this record is about.”

About Orrin Evans
The Evolution of Oneself explores deeply personal terrain, with Evans reflecting on the road he’s traveled to become the man and musician he is today.

Through 25 albums as a leader and co-leader, including his neo-soul/acid jazz ensemble Luv Park and the bracing collective trio Tarbaby, Evans has always followed a vigorously individual path. The Evolution of Oneself is no exception, with Evans setting a pace that brings out fiery, gut-churning playing from both McBride and Riggins – two of modern jazz’s most renowned and distinctive voices in their own rights.

McBride, of course, shares Evans’ Philadelphia origins, roots that both have taken great pride in over the course of their careers. But despite only a three-year difference in age, they’ve only worked together a handful of times, never on record. Evans met Riggins more than two decades ago, prior to his move to New York; Riggins later stayed with Evans and fellow Philly expat Duane Eubanks in their New York City apartment upon his own move to the city. Still, it wasn’t until a recent tour under Riggins’ leadership that the two shared any significant stage time together. The Evolution of Oneself finally provided the long-overdue opportunity for Evans to collaborate with both of them, forming a powerhouse new trio in the process.

The album is framed by three very different takes on the Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein standard “All the Things You Are,” a song which Evans says represents the most important factor in his own personal evolution: his family. The lyrics, he explains, captures the support and devotion that his wife, Dawn Warren Evans, has provided through the ups and downs of a career in jazz. “My evolution is based on the past twenty years with this woman who’s had my back and accepted all the things I am,” he says.

The couple recites those lyrics together over an electronica track produced by their youngest son, Matthew Evans, on the penultimate version. (Older son Miles doesn’t appear, but provided the inspiration for two tracks, “For Miles” and “Tsagli’s Lean.”) The album opens with an up-tempo run through the tune that sets the spirited tone for what is to come, while it closes with a languorous reimagining featuring McBride’s dirge-like bowed bass and the haunting, soulful moan of vocalist JD Walter. 17-year-old Matthew also produced the hip hop-tinged “Genisis” interludes that pepper the album, culled from his home recordings of his father and mixed by bassist/producer Anthony Tidd, famed for his work with both The Roots and Steve Coleman’s Five Elements.

About Orrin Evans
Orrin Evans recording session is always a family affair, with a party atmosphere and guests stopping by whether they end up contributing or not.

While The Evolution of Oneself takes the concept more literally than usual, an Orrin Evans recording session is always a family affair, with a party atmosphere and guests stopping by whether they end up contributing or not. “Being in the studio and doing what I do is no different than a cookout on a Saturday night,” Evans says, and that openness is reflected in the raucous verve of this album.

The date’s other special guest is guitarist Marvin Sewell, responsible for its most surprising moment: the country-blues slide guitar that introduces the traditional Americana folk song “Wildwood Flower,” made famous by the Carter Family. His introduction to the song came via drummer Matt Wilson, and Evans’ rendition is dedicated to Wilson’s late wife Felicia. While one might not expect to hear a country music influence coming from Evans, the beauty of the song is undeniable — and he naturally turns the down-home feel inside out and makes it wholly his own.

Beyond McBride’s involvement, Philly is well represented on the album. The sultry R&B groove of Grover Washington Jr.’s “A Secret Place” offers the chance for both to pay homage to the late saxophonist, who resided in Mt. Airy, the same Philadelphia neighborhood that Evans has long called home. “One of my only musical regrets is not recording with Grover Washington Jr.,” Evans admits. “He was really cool and he lived right around the corner, but at that time in my life I didn’t understand how accessible he was. I don’t think people know how bad he was as a saxophonist, as a musician, and as an artist.”

Evans credits Philadelphia trumpeter Jafar Barron as one of the key players in the development of the neo-soul movement, and tips with hat with Barron’s composition “Jewels and Baby Yaz.” Bassist Jon Michel’s swinging “Sweet Sid” was written in memory of pianist Sid Simmons, a mentor to Evans and countless young Philly jazz musicians.

The album is rounded out by a loose-limbed, sharp-angled take on “Autumn Leaves,” the airy ballad “February 13th” by bassist and fellow Tarbaby member Eric Revis, and a half-dozen Evans originals representing the impressive reach of his stylistic imagination. With this album Evans marks a profound breakthrough in his personal evolution, one that has progressed beyond categories and into the realm of unfettered expression.

Joanna Pascale: Whether referring to the lesser-known repertoire to which she’s drawn or to the singer herself, nurtured in the concrete jungle of her native Philadelphia, Wildflower is the ideal title for Pascale’s captivating new album. Supported by an excellent band led by the session’s producer, pianist Orrin Evans, and a host of special guests including Christian McBride, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Gregoire Maret, Bilal, and Cyrus Chestnut, Pascale finally comes into full bloom, a wildflower whose beauty is emerging into the sunlight.

The recording of Wildflower coincided with the end of Pascale’s decade-long engagement at the Loews Philadelphia Hotel, which allowed her to hone her voice, style, and vast repertoire. But leaving that long-running gig also provided a newfound freedom to follow a more personal path, which she embraces on her fourth album. Each song on Wildflower is one with which Pascale feels a deep emotional connection, which shines through in the passionate feeling she conveys to the listener. “If I don't connect with a lyric, I can’t sing the song,” she says. “I love to dig into the words and find all the different shades, the stories within the story, and then try to interpret that.”

But equally important for her approach to breathing life into this material is Pascale’s interaction with her musicians. “For me,” she says, “it's the space between the words that tells the story. I love that these musicians allowed so much space for me to paint these pictures. It allowed me to get very intimate with the phrasing of the lyrics. The fun in storytelling is finding a way of phrasing so that the listener connects to your intention and all the ways you feel the subtle shades of the emotions in the story.”

Propelled by the deep, sinuous groove laid down by Evans, McBride, and drummer Donald Edwards, “Forget Me” immediately establishes that connection via Pascale’s intimate, impassioned delivery. It’s followed by the tender J.J. Johnson ballad “Lament,” featuring an original lyric penned for Pascale by Tony Haywood, which features Edwards and bassist Luques Curtis. Most of the album features bassist Vicente Archer and drummer Obed Calvaire, who luxuriate in creating space while maintaining momentum on tracks like “I Remember You” and “Stay With Me.”

To find the ideal musicians to realize her vision for the album, Pascale worked closely with producer Orrin Evans. The two go back almost twenty years together, to her near-disastrous first experience on stage when she was 14 at an Evans-led jam session. When the pianist finally called her to the stage, he waved off her offer of a songbook with the music for Billie Holiday’s “Good Morning Heartache.”“This was honestly the first time I’d ever sang when I wasn’t singing along to a record,” Pascale recalls. “Orrin starts playing and something wasn’t right. I start singing and he’s in a different key, and I’m horrified. So I turn around and the bassist and drummer are laughing hysterically to the point where tears were rolling down their faces and their shoulders were shaking trying to hold it in. Next thing I know, somebody grabs the songbook and puts it in front of Orrin. I still have a little bit of fear whenever I sit in on a jam session.”

Despite that shaky start, Pascale and Evans forged an ongoing friendship, to the point where they consider themselves virtually family. “Joanna’s like a little sister to me,” Evans has said. “I think we really feel time and space and rhythm in the same way. So whatever we do, there’s going to be space for us to grow and make something happen.”

As a producer, Pascale says, Evans “knew exactly what I wanted to get to and I really trusted that. There were times where it was hard for me to give up control, because I had total control of all the other records that I’ve done. But he really had the wider vision than I did at the moment, which helped to shape everything. We have a lot of mutual respect.” Gregoire Maret’s expressive harmonica highlights two rare excursions into the pop songbook for Pascale, Stevie Wonder’s “Overjoyed” and the Gerry Goffin/Carole King favorite “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” Maret also appears, along with Cyrus Chestnut’s spirited organ, on Pascale’s achingly slow rendition of Henry Glover’s “Drown in My Own Tears,” best known from Ray Charles’ recording. The title song, meanwhile, features two of Philadelphia’s favorite six-string sons, Kurt Rosenwinkel and Tim Motzer, and vocals by neo-soul singer Bilal, Pascale’s friend from Philly’s renowned High School for the Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA), which also boasts Rosenwinkel, McBride, Joey DeFrancesco, and member of The Roots as graduates. “We started discovering music together,” Pascale recalls of Bilal. “We would make each other jazz vocal mixtapes and trade them. So it was a very special, very magical moment for me to have him share his gift on the recording twenty years later.”

After graduating from CAPA, Pascale attended Temple University, where she is now a member of the faculty and has been featured on two of the university’s CD releases, including the Temple University Jazz Band’s Thad Jones tribute album To Thad With Love. She is featured on Warfield’s Jazzy Christmas CD; Orrin Evans’ Liberation Blues, recorded live at Smoke; on Philly sax legend Larry McKenna’s From All Sides; Jeremy Pelt's Soul and on That Music Always Round Me, a setting of Walt Whitman’s poetry by Garry Dial and Dick Oatts. She made her leader debut with 2004’s When Lights Are Low, followed by the 2008 CD Through My Eyes and a 2010 duo recording with pianist Anthony Wonsey that focused on Songbook standards.

Stacy Dillard, raised in Muskegon Heights, Michigan, started playing the saxophone at a rather late age. In his hometown, there isn't much music happening, but only Robert Moore, Stacy's band instructor, and a host of close friends. Athletics was a big part of his life, leading to the late start on the instrument. Stacy attended college at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio to study with Dr. William Denza, Jim Smith, Chris Berg, and Lenard Moses. Very quickly, Dillard acquired the necessary knowledge that would soon put his name out on the local scene. It was a run-in with Wynton Marsalis in Dayton, Ohio that would turn his attention to the New York Scene. After graduation, Stacy took the act to Cincinnati, where he stayed for a short time and made his first recording appearance with Mike Wade on trumpet, drummer Melvin Broach and pianist William Menefield. Maturation was very rapid, finally leading the way to New York.

“Stacy is a one-of-a-kind musician. Seriously." Roy Hargrove

“A young saxophonist of serious promise" (Ben Ratliff, The New York Times), Stacy has caught the attention of many with his large and rich tone, developed ideas, accurate technique, work ethic, and patience, leading to a number of working opportunities. Dillard has played with Winard Harper, Cindy Blackmon, Lenny White, Norman Simmons, Frank Lacy, Wycliffe Gordon, Eric Reed, Roy Hargrove, Stephon Harris, Ernestine Anderson, Terrell Stafford, Herlin Riley, John Hicks, Frank Wess, Mulgrew Miller, Clark Terry, Victor Lewis, Steve Wilson, Johnny O'neal, Antonio Hart, Russell Malone, Lewis Nash, Mark Whitfield, the Mingus Big Band, and a host of others in different genres of music, including Shirley Ceasar, Alex Bugnon, Stephanie Mills, Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, and more.

“Hey man, this (censored) can play. This MF can PLAY!" Wynton Marsalis

As well as being a sideman, Stacy Dillard is currently leading three bands of his own. cPhyve is the genesis project, along with cPhour, which is stylistically similar to cPhyve. The Other Side is exactly what the name says. The cast of members are the same as cPhyve, but r&b/funk/hip-hop oriented.

To sum it all up, Stacy Dillard is a perfect example of the fusing of tradition and innovation, the combination which keeps EVERYTHING fresh, exciting, energetic, theraputic, and more importantly, real.

$30.00

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