Over the past few weeks, via Facebook, I’ve been communicating with a cohort of people, all but a few of whom are complete strangers, who share with me the singular experience of spending our childhoods and teen years in Greenwich Village during the 1950s and (in my case) the 1960s. Several of them are musicians, and a few among that subset, I discovered from a thread this morning, studied with Barry Harris at various points along their timeline.
This led me to look at a profile I wrote about the maestro in 2000 for DownBeat, which concluded with these reflections: “The more you find out about music, the more you believe in God. This isn’t haphazardly put together. This stuff is exact. It’s a science, and part of the music is science. But we think there’s something above the science part; there’s something above the logic. There’s a freedom at both ends of the barrel, man. There’s a freedom in anarchy, but there’s another freedom that comes from knowledge, then another freedom comes that really is the freedom we seek. That’s what all of us want, is this freedom.”
Something like this notion is what I think the Philadelphia-based pianist Orrin Evans had in mind when he decided to give the title Freedom to his excellent new release on PosiTone. Recorded a year ago, and dedicated to Philly jazz icons Trudy Pitts, Charles Fambrough, and Sid Simmons, each of whom had recently passed away, it’s an incisive, 9-piece recital (7 trios with Dwayne Burno on bass and either Byron Landham or Anwar Marshall on drums, 2 quartets with Larry McKenna on tenor saxophone), animated by dictates of groove and harmonic logic, which become ever more open as the proceedings unfold. Often predisposed on prior recordings to navigate the high-wire in satisfying ways, Evans here plays throughout with old soul concision and deep focus worthy of his dedicatees.