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Orrin Evans, The Red Door Review

by July 12, 2023

Orrin Evans, The Red Door Review

Opening Doors: Orrin Evans, opening The Red Door of Exploration, Collaboration, and Growth

Orrin-Evans-CUR-CDOrrin Evans takes us through a journey behind The Red Door, his latest album on Smoke Sessions Records that embodies three decades of musical exploration, collaboration, and growth. “The Red Door is a metaphor for the unknown,” Evans said. “It’s about stepping through the door and facing your fears, but also about the excitement and possibility that comes with that.” The album is a tribute to all those who’ve contributed to his artistic evolution, highlighting the beauty he’s discovered on the other side of the ‘red door.’

The Red Door features two core ensembles: one is an ensemble of bass legend Buster Williams and veteran drummer Gene Jackson, augmented by the late trumpet master Wallace Roney or Philly living legend Larry McKenna on tenor; the other is a quintet with trumpeter Nicholas Payton, saxophonist/flutist Gary Thomas, bassist Robert Hurst, and drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith.

Also augmenting the ensembles are vocalists Jazzmeia Horn, Sy Smith, and Alita Moses. Horn lends her voice to anOrrin-Evans-CUR-2 impassioned reading of “Big Small,” infusing the song with her powerful and soulful tonality. Breaking from her busy touring schedule, Smith lends her unique vocal flair to the traditional hymn “Amazing Grace,” imbuing it with a renewed reverence. Finally, Moses pairs with Evans on an intense yet compelling rendition of Stevie Wonder’s poignant ballad, “They Won’t Go When I Go.” Each vocalist’s unique contribution adds a distinct layer to the richness and diversity of the album’s soundscape.

“Weezy,” dedicated to Evans’ goddaughter, Eloise, is a perfect example of Evans’ ability to write personal and universal music. The composition builds upon a post-bop aesthetic, with the song’s form having written sections and sections where the ensemble plays off each other freely. For the solos, the ensemble engages in a musical dialogue, their rhythmic and melodic ideas weaving into an intriguing sonic tapestry. Thomas’ lyrical flute solo and Evans’ clever piano techniques contribute to a sense of rhythmic diversity, providing an engaging listening experience.

By contrast, “The Good Life” exudes a classic hard-bop sentiment. McKenna, along with Evans, Williams, and Jackson, offers a stylistic performance that resonates with the golden era of jazz. McKenna performs an elegant solow with a bebop to hard-bop influence. Evans’ piano solo, infused with the colors and techniques of ’50s jazz, showcases his versatility and deep comprehension of jazz’s different eras.

Orrin-Evans-CUR-1Evans’ album The Red Door is a strong musical project; it encompasses his rich journey, the people who’ve been part of it, and his courage to constantly push beyond perceived boundaries. As a tribute to those who have shaped his musical identity, the album contains many jazz styles and influences from other genres, all congealed with the energy of embracing the unexpected.

Evans extends an open invitation to us all. The Red Door is swung wide, and the party is in full swing. Dare you to step in?


Orrin Evans


The Red Door


Smoke Sessions Records

Release Date

June 16, 2023

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