Friday, 6 May 2011

Peter Evans (and the ghost of Wynton M.)

Here's a review I posted on the Free Jazz Blog concerning the latest Peter Evans (Quintet) recording. I could of written more about this release but decided due to space on Stef's Free Jazz blog that I'd keep the words down and write a little more here, and include an mp3 or two for those interested. In the meanwhile read on as I'll write some more blurb after the review.

Peter Evans Quintet - Ghosts (2011) *****

The quintet : Evans (trumpet), Carlos Homs (piano), Tom Blancarte (bass), Jim Black (drums), Sam Pluta doing live processing. What they do with the music is like going on a roller-coaster as you're tossed up in the air, whizzed around corners, spinning down and around. The quintet mixes bop and electronics in an compelling way, reminding me of the direction John Zorn took with his zapping music. Track 1 is a post bop type melody, but with subtle use of electronics, a rhythm section that stops, starts, speeds up and slows down like a be-bop Captain Beefheart, and that's just the beginning. '323' (Tk 2), the music again hits right between the eyes before flying off into a free form improvisation that gradually reassembles itself only after visiting several different rhythmical sections, here the music is relentless. 

Carlos Homs plays excellent piano, managing to stay finely balanced between post bop and the music of now, mixing modern styles such as Matthew Shipp or Craig Taborn. Fine playing from all, Jim Black also is heard here in great form, maybe the most interesting drumming since the Tiny Bell Trio. Sam Pluta takes the music, in particular Evans trumpet, and sends it back to us the listener in many guises, sometimes it takes you a second to realise what you're actually hearing. Blancarte holds the whole thing together, probably more than we actually notice.   

There are a few stopping places on the journey though, Ghost (Tk 3) being the first - based on the standard 'I Don't Stand a Ghost of a Chance with You'. Here the music is calm and spacious, Evans trumpet fires off spiralling away in all directions although he stays close to the melody (never played). The music is often daring and endlessly interesting whilst staying very accessible. And 'that' is probably the crux of the album, the music always stays melodic even in the wildest moments.'Articulation' (Tk 6) is like a conclusion at 14 mins, the sum of all the music heard, forever changing. This is where Wynton Marsalis could of gone with his classic 4tet, but never did. 

In fact you could write much about this CD as there are endless details to discover and the music manages to subtly integrate many styles also. An excellent album with no weak moments, and I suspect one that will be high on 'best of' lists at the end of the year. 'Stardust' (the final track) is a nice way to leave the listener, don't you find?

A track that I originally mentioned in the review was Tk 5 Chorales, but due to space I decided to edit out the remark. However this was one of the sections that I really enjoyed due to the use of repetitive minimalism. It's something I love using in composition and here it works really well, if only a small section of the tune. 
Chorales (Tk5)

I also briefly mention at the end of the review a reference to Wynton Marsalis, and it's not meant either as a joke or as a put down, rather a question unanswered. In reviewing the CD I often found myself thinking (or being reminded of) the great bands that Wynton had in the 80s and how this CD (made only recently) had some of those lessons learnt and developed. At music college I remember hearing, as we all did, the great standards record for the first time and it's breath taking use of harmony and rhythm. The rhythmical direction that 'that' band took was then even further developed by Branford, but it is sad (to me at least) that Wynton seemed to loose interest in that side of his music. Maybe that's also because he changed his band? I was also reminded here - Peter Evans CD - of how Wynton Marsalis had turned his back on more adventurous forms of music something that at the time became a 'bone of contention'. Ridiculous arguments between Lester Bowie and the likes about could the young Marsalis play. However, when hearing this I had to wonder what fresh ideas he may have found if he'd gone down this route and as you'll here if you buy the album, Evans doesn't actually stray far from conventional music and jazz, he just embraces other possibilities and successfully combines them into his playing and composition. The group like Wynton Marsalis' band is also an important piece of the music and without those players supporting the music may not have worked so well.

Articulation (Tk 6)

Here is a final track from the album which really is excellent and quite worth the detour. As I mentioned in the review Evans' Quintet really plays this music in a way that reinterprets the past and stays (or looks) very much to the future. There are three re-worked standards on the record, two mentioned in the review - Mel Tormé's 'Christmas Song' disguised as 'One to Ninety Two' being the other. I should add that the album is a hard listen, not so much because the music is complex, it's more about the amount of information being sent out of the speakers making this album anything but background music!

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