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Orrin Evans

Over the course of a career spanning more than twenty years, Philadelphia pianist/composer Orrin Evans has always charted a vigorously individual path. Whether he chooses to express himself through his bold, muscular keyboard attack; through the raw soulfulness of his never-predictable bands; or off the bandstand, with his audaciously candid wit – there’s never any question where Evans stands. With 25 albums to his credit without ever relying on the support of a major label, he’s become the model of a fiercely independent artist who’s made a habit of rattling the jazz world’s confining cages.

Evans’ scintillating new album, The Evolution of Oneself (Smoke Sessions), takes stock of the pivotal moments that have shaped his distinctive trajectory. The album is one more landmark in his 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.

Inspired by his father, professor and playwright Don Evans – whose preferred brand of tobacco is the basis for the name of the Captain Black Big Band – Evans has also reached beyond the confines of jazz and music in general for his collaborators. He has worked with poets Sonia Sanchez and Amiri Baraka and created multi-media projects with dancers and videographers. His work as a composer has also grown increasingly ambitious, including the soundtrack for the PBS documentary Revolution ’67 and suites commissioned by Jazz at Lincoln Center (in honor of Sun Ra’s centennial) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (celebrating Thomas Hart Benton’s mural “America Today.”)

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