Jazz CD Reviews
Evan Christopher – Delta Bound – Arbors Jazz
Published on January 14, 2008
(Evan Christopher, clarinets/ Dick Hyman, piano/ Bill Huntington, bass/ Shannon Powell, drums)
Seems like we hadn’t heard from many topflight clarinetists for quite a spell there – not like the days of Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Woody Herman, Jimmy Giuffre. Now suddenly they seem to be all over the place, and several standouts have been recorded by the Arbors label. I hadn’t heard of Christopher before but he’s a fresh new voice on the instrument who is also steeped in the tradition of the New Orleans clarinet style. He’s in his 30s and started playing clarinet at age 11. Though not born in the N.O. area, he has studied the Creole clarinet style and history and even written on the subject. He dedicated the CD to Lorenzo Tio Jr. (d.1933), who is considered the father of the New Orleans clarinet style and taught many of the greatest early N.O. clarinetists.
The dozen tunes all support the Delta Bound overall titles, but that doesn’t at all mean they are all in the same old trad jazz bag. Like early Crescent City musicians whose business cards read “music for all occasions,” Christopher is the most versatile sort of clarinetist who can play in any style. He composed five of the dozen tunes here and all five tie in with the history and places of New Orleans. Some sound downright modern. His La Ciudad Criolla (Creole City) is built around the chords of Mal Waldron’s Soul Eyes. There are also tunes by Hoagy Carmichael, Tony Parenti, Johnny Mercer, and even Raymond Scott.
A major credit for the success of the CD must go to pianist Dick Hyman, who also isn’t from New Orleans but is steeped in the tradition and keeps everything swinging madly. Christopher’s technical expertise is amazing, yet never obscures the emotional communication of his playing. The last two tracks are instant classics: the lyrical and atmospheric Sunday Mornings was commissioned of Christopher by the Sidney Bechet Society, and the closing title tune is one which was originally recorded by Jimmie Noone back in 1933. Described as a mix of “Creole and Uptown,” the seven-minute jam sounds loads larger than just a quartet and brings the album to a riotous conclusion.
TrackList: Vieux Carré, Rampart Street Ramble, Creole Belles, New Orleans, Kiss Me Sweet, La Ciudad Criolla, The King of Tremé, Desire, Out of There, While We Danced at the Mardi Gras, Sunday Mornings, Delta Bound.
– John Henry