Classical pianist Gabe Evens flexes his prowess as a composer of modal jazz on his new release, The Wrong Waltz. Implementing modal jazz principles demonstrates Evens’ skill as an improviser, as he relies on his wit to come up with notes purely invented in his mind and played over a melodic theme performed by bassist Lynn Seaton and drummer Ed Soph. The art form tests the musicians’ acquaintance with honing arrangements, knowing the range of their respective instruments and understanding how to manipulate the course of their notes. Evens’ work combines structured patterns with his skill to invent notations, making his talent most appreciated in scholarly circles.
The compositions show a different type of lyricism than most audiences are accustomed to, one that the musicians sense but not necessarily one that listeners can grasp. “Tease Me” has a jumping jive rhythm, which, combined with Evens’ fast-paced twinkling keys make for an upbeat atmosphere. Though the trio come together to create a jovial vibe, the keys pave its own path, moving in a direction apart from the drums and bass. At times, the listener is torn between following the bopping beats of the bass and the rapping taps of the keys. Evens uses the piano keys the way a rap artist uses his vocals, to form impromptu verses.
The modish slant of “Stand at the Front of Your Mat” has the threesome jiggling and jutting, brandishing shapely figures in a suave penmanship. The conversational exchanges between the keys and the bass in “Loud, Quiet, Loud in Blue” invite the audience into the playful banter, performing in a manner that listeners can follow and experience the fun propagated by the musicians. “Keep Your Head Down” and “Billy Strayhorn” evoke quiet contemplation in the listener and change to a swinging rhythm in “The Goodbye Hug,” showing a flare for the merriment of classic jazz idioms.
As a practitioner of the modal jazz method, Evens is prolific at inventing notations with zing embedded in them. He shows glimpses of returning to classic jazz idioms but leans a bulk of his work towards the improvisational side of the jazz spectrum. Evens shakes up standard thoughts governing jazz music. He adds his own personal touch to the formula, stoking the concept of inventing notes that may seem misplaced in the music but serve the purpose of exercising freedom of expression.
Gabe Evens – piano, Lynn Seaton – bass, Ed Soph – drums
“Tease Me,” “The Wrong Waltz,” “Stand at the Front of Your Mat,” “Something Like Love,” “Loud, Quiet, Loud in Blue,” “Keep Your Head Down,” “Yoko and the Spotless, Spotless Clan,” “Billy Strayhorn,” “The Goodbye Hug,” “Untrained, Untrodden, Untrue”