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The King Of All Instruments by Charles Evans

After three fantastic band recordings, the young bari player has decided to make a disc entirely made up of overdubbed baritone sax ensemble. And frankly, when I hear the idea of an overdubbed record, it gives me the heebie-jeebies. The cover art does Evans no favors either, featuring the bell of his horn with a chintzy-looking crown hanging off it. So, at first glance, I thought I was in for a cheese-fest, which, fortunately, is the polar opposite of the music on the disc. If you know Evans from his work with the quartet The Language Of, you also might not be prepared for this disc, with its impressionistic sonorities and subtle dissonances.

A student of David Liebman as well as Gary Smulyan, Evans has also plainly spent a lot of time listening to 20th century classical music, balancing his compositions on this disc between plain jazz language and a more "classical" concept of rhythm and harmony. His command of the instrument is such that he can play well into the altissimo register, rendering a very broad tonal range, exploiting the high notes as well as the deeper sounds. Some of the most strident sounds can be found in "Junie Part II," dedicated to Evans’ father, which he then follows with a tune dedicated to Liebman that opens with a beautiful unaccompanied solo line, full of multiphonics and slowly-evolving textures. When the other saxes enter, you almost don’t realize it’s overdubbed at first.

Throughout the disc, the tone is almost elegiac. Even in the tune that pays tribute to Gerry Mulligan, the overall feeling is one of darkness. Evans declares in the liner notes that the closing piece "What Would of Ives" (another dedication, this one to his first teacher Bill Zaccagni) is the one with irony and humor, but truly to my ears it comes across as more serious than playful. Which is not to say that the music isn’t wonderful! This CD, despite its cover art, is a keeper that I will easily listen to repeatedly. Whether you agree that the bari is the "King of All Instruments" or not, Evans makes quite a case for it.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Charles Evans
  • CD Title: The King Of All Instruments
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2009
  • Record Label: Hot Cup Records
  • Tracks: On Tone Yet? Part I (Mover’s Mood for Annie), On Tone Yet? Part II, On Tone Yet? Part III, Junie Part I: The Father (for Clarence Evans), Junie Part II: The Friend (for Clarence Evans), It’s The Right Toe Bro (for David Leibman), A Deya In The Life Of A Mulligan, Mothers And Others (for Genevieve Evans and Jenifer and Jim Besten), What Would Of Ives (for Bill Zaccagni)
  • Musicians: Charles Evans (baritone saxophone)
  • Rating: Five Stars
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