Saturday, September 30, 2017

Gabe Evens Trio's The Wrong Waltz

This one came at the right time, after countless jazz releases that seem a little too perfect, a little too accomplished. That's not to say these guys are sloppy and wild, just adventurous--like in the '50s and '60s when everything seemed so new. You know the risks that are being taken, and that creates a stronger interaction between performer and listener.

Gabe Evens is certainly no slouch when it comes to mining the history of jazz. Evens is an associate professor of jazz piano, composition and arrangement at the University of Louisville's famed Jamey Aebersold Jazz Studies Program. He's also performed all over the world. He has the chops, he's paid his dues, he's done whatever he's expected to do to earn respect as a jazz pianist. That said, his approach to these ten original tunes isn't as academic as you would think. Or, perhaps, that's the point--Evens, along with bassist Lynn Seaton and drummer Ed Soph, knows that the foundations of jazz aren't grounded in logic and reason and structure. It's about catching the whirlwind and finding places no one else has been.

It sounds like I'm describing chaos once again, but I'm not. The macro-structure of the music is intact, with themes and improvisations that sound fully comfortable within the be-bop canon. The inspiration is in the tiny details, especially when you take the time to isolate what each performer is doing at any given point. That's a whole this sounds musical, lyrical, whatever you want to call it, but it's the Drummer's Drummer Syndrome where amazing things are happening in the margins if you know what you're looking for.

The best way to sum this up is to say this is perfect jazz, which doesn't necessarily mean what you think it means. By perfect I mean it pushes you to look in the crevices and find out what's hiding in the dark. It's music that's meant for up-close and careful listening, otherwise you might just mistake this for any number of perfect, accomplished contemporary jazz releases. It's not. It's better than that.

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