Monday, October 13, 2008

Orrin Evans- Explain It To Me

Class dismissed.

Jazz is clearly less relevant today than it was forty years ago. Has the quality of the music diminished accordingly?

I could argue both sides of this question endlessly, but if I was called upon to make a case for jazz's continuing vitality, I might begin by citing Criss Cross Jazz. Just as Blue Note Records did in its heyday, the Dutch label tirelessly turns out outstanding mainstream jazz releases by the era's top musicians.

As with classic Blue Note efforts, Criss Cross' dates are mostly loosely organized blowing sessions. That doesn't mean, however, that its output isn't compelling and innovative.

Orrin Evans' "Explain It To Me" is a great example. World-class rhythm section Avishai Cohen and Ralph Peterson chime in after the pianist's opening statement. Ralph Bowen, Antonio Hart and Tim Warfield then engage in an old-fashioned saxophone battle. It's from the excellent 1998 release Captain Black. Not surprisingly, Evans is spending much of the next two months touring Europe.

That so few take notice of Criss Cross' work is a symptom of jazz' commercial- not artistic- malaise.

Alton Ellis died Friday. The reggae great's "Black Man's Pride" was featured at There Stands the Glass eighteen months ago.

Kansas City Click: Dwight Foster leads the Monday jam session at the Blue Room.

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