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Falkner Evans (Photo by Jimmy Katz)

The comfort zone is not where a truly creative artist takes up permanent residence. After three trio recordings that established him as one of the most vivid post-bop stylists on the present jazz scene, pianist and composer Falkner Evans has expanded his tonal palette for The Point Of The Moon. The result is his most ambitious and rewarding album, one that demonstrates his growth as a skilled instrumentalist and his newly emerging gifts as a small group arranger. The point of departure for Evans may be solidly crafted modern jazz with nods to hard bop and sights beyond, but his own spin on the tradition has never been so boldly executed.

Utilizing the same rhythm team – bassist Belden Bullock and drummer Matt Wilson – as his acclaimed 2007 album, ARC, Evans broadens the scope of his new recording in the shape of three additional players: tenor saxophonist Greg Tardy, trumpeter Ron Horton and, on the album’s final two tracks, keyboardist Gary Versace. In addition to seven new compositions from the leader, Evans and his compatriots also reinterpret Antonio Carlos Jobim’s bossa nova classic “O Grande Amor” and the Alec Wilder standard “While We’re Young.”

“I loved the freedom of working in a trio context,” Evans says, “but it was time to do something different, to move forward.” Having long admired the playing of both horn men, Evans took firm advantage of their individual talents as imaginative improvisers as well as their exemplary tonal blend. (Tardy and Horton had previously collaborated in the memorable Andrew Hill big band of 2002.) Turning for guidance to his friend and former teacher, pianist Mike Longo – an esteemed player and educator still best known best for his work with Dizzy Gillespie -Evans crafted horn charts that sound integrally related to his compositions rather than shoe-horned additions. “It was a real learning experience. Unlike a looser trio date, here everything had to be nailed down. With horns involved you have to think differently rhythmically. Having such great players involved was invaluable – everyone worked like crazy. You can tell when the musicians you bring in have actually studied the charts at home, put their own time into it before coming to the studio. I think you can hear it on the album.”

All of Evan’s core cohorts are acknowledged individualists with full jazz resumes. “Greg is a wonderful player whom I’ve been aware of for a long while,” Evans states, “And Ron is one of the most lyrical players out there.” As for his old friends on bass and drums, Evans also has nothing but praise. “Belden Bullock (who can be head with Abdullah Ibrahim and others) is so supportive; he’s a great player with a soulful heart. Matt is on all four of my albums – he plays the music, not just the rhythmic elements. Nine times out of ten his suggestions would be perfect. That’s what makes him incredible.”

Although there is ample space for Evans to display his comfortably swinging yet crisply inventive skills as an accomplished improviser, The Point Of The Moon is resolutely an ensemble recording, one whose compositions are no mere outlines for players to strut their stuff. Evans’s care with instrumental sonorities is palpable throughout but particularly evident on the album’s concluding performances. For “Off the Top,” a soulful blues, Gary Versace was brought in to add just-right touches of organ; on the title track, Versace switches to accordion, the perfect complement to the piece’s tango groove.

The unexpected yet delightfully atmospheric use of tango flavorings is indicative of Evan’s imaginative sensibility and his promise as an evolving musician. Holding fast to Duke Ellington’s dictum that his favorite composition is always the next tune he writes, Evans is itching to conceive new works for horn-based small band. On the evidence The Point Of The Moon, we have a lot to look forward to.

Falkner Evans – a third cousin to iconic author William Faulkner – was born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a city whose musical progeny have included a variety of significant artists from Leon Russell to jazz bass giant Cecil McBee. After working with local pop and jazz bands, Evans began a four-year stint with the Grammy-winning neo-Western Swing band, Asleep at the Wheel, with whom he also recorded two albums. Establishing himself in New York City in 1985, Evans released two trio recordings with drummer Matt Wilson and Cecil McBee: Level Playing Field (2002) and Climbing the Gates (2006). Belden Bullock replaced McBee on ARC ((2007). Evans remains active as both a soloist and a group leader.

Visit pianist Falkner Evans at http://www.falknerevans.com for more information.

..:: SOURCE: BKMusicPR.com ::..