Orrin Evans: The Magic Of Now 

Former Kenny Barron student and Bad Plus pianist plays a set of originals - and a Mulgrew Miller tune - with Bill Stewart and others


The Magic Of Now is Orrin Evans’s 20th album, and documents a livestream engagement at Smoke Jazz Club in December 2020. It appears following his departure from the trio The Bad Plus after three years. (The album actually appeared in 2021, so this review is somewhat delayed.)

Evans’ band here is a superb one, with the established figures of bassist Vicente Archer and drummer Bill Stewart, plus young alto saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins. The programme consists of three originals by Evans, three by Wilkins, plus Stewart’s Mynah – from Telepathy (Blue Note, 1997) – and Mulgrew Miller’s The Eleventh Hour.

Evans was born in 1975 in Trenton, New Jersey. He studied at Rutgers University and with Kenny Barron and worked with Bobby Watson and Ralph Peterson, releasing his debut as a leader in 1994. He recorded prolifically with the Criss Cross label from 1997. He’s a lucid and original stylist, whose work covers a spectrum of approaches to contemporary jazz piano.

That’s clear from the excellent work on this album. Highlights include The Poor Fisherman, a reflective ballad, and Wilkins’ plangent Levels, in 5/4. The album closes gently, with Evans’ ballad Dave. The results are highly recommended.

Mynah; The Eleventh Hour; Libra; The Poor Fisherman; MAT-Matt; Levels; Momma Loves; Dave (57.39)
Immanuel Wilkins (as); Evans (p); Vicente Archer (b); Bill Stewart (d). New York City, December 2020.
Smoke Sessions SSR-2103