This review appears in the August 2012 issue of The New York City Jazz Record.
Flip the Script (Posi-Tone)
By David R. Adler
Pianist Orrin Evans is on a hot streak. For evidence look to his recent Posi-Tone releases Freedom, Faith In Action and Captain Black Big Band, not to mention his sideman turn with Ralph Bowen on Power Play or his work with the co-led group Tarbaby. On his new Flip the Script, the Philadelphian enlists bassist Ben Wolfe and drummer Donald Edwards for a trio session of great depth and sustained focus. It’s a mostly original date, though “Question,” the bracingly free opening salvo, is by Tarbaby’s bassist Eric Revis.
While Flip the Script has its episodes of speed and ferocity, Evans and crew also do what the album title suggests by slowing way down. In the fragmented blues of “Big Small” and the meditative calm of the reharmonized “Someday My Prince Will Come” (the only standard), we hear control and invention at the most reined-in tempos — an essential element of jazz artistry. The ballad “When,” guided by Edwards on subtle mallets, also highlights the trio’s contemplative side. “TC’s Blues,” first recorded by Evans’ group Seed in 2000, is a rhythmic test of another sort, with pauses and cues that guide the band through a maze of slow-to-fast transitions. It’s a pivotal moment on the disc.
Along with the soaring waltzes “Clean House” and “The Answer” and the powerful title track — fine pieces of writing from Evans — we have two additional covers: “A Brand New Day,” Luther Vandross’ contribution to The Wiz soundtrack, and “The Sound of Philadelphia” (or “TSOP”) by Philly soul legends Gamble & Huff. The latter, a lively 1974 disco hit remade for sparse solo piano, is decidedly bittersweet. This was once the theme from Soul Train; it’s still played at the ballpark before the Phillies’ home games. Evans’ version is like a poignant sigh, a nod to Philly in all its musical diversity and dysfunction. As the finale of one of his finest efforts to date, it’s simply ingenious.