Jazz CD Reviews

Charles Evans – Subliminal Leaps – More is More

Teacher and student leap to progressive heights of saxophone artistry.

Published on October 27, 2013

Charles Evans – Subliminal Leaps – More is More

Charles Evans – Subliminal Leaps – More is More MIM 132, 46:57 [9/10/13] ****:

(Charles Evans – baritone saxophone, mixing; David Liebman – soprano saxophone; Ron Stabinsky – piano, mixing; Tony Marino – bass)

There’s an adventurous sound texture created by the twinned saxophones of Charles Evans and David Liebman on Evans’ newest outing, the improvisational and sometimes experimental Subliminal Leaps, issued via Evans’ own imprint, More is More. Liebman should be well known to anyone who listens to post-bop jazz. He was with Miles Davis in the early ‘70s, then formed the cooperative ensemble Quest in the early ‘80s, and since 1989 has been connected with the International Association of Schools of Jazz (IASJ) to nurture jazz education and the roles of trusted musical advisement. The position of guide and instructor led to this involvement with former student Charles Evans, who specifically crafted this mostly low-key, 47-minute project to highlight both Liebman’s masterful soprano sax music-making, and Evans own work on baritone sax.

This is no blowing fest. Evans’ six-track suite focuses on discreet chromatic development, avoids explicit genre specifics and sidesteps away from traditional jazz language. Compositionally, this is done by using a strict 12-tone serialism. Melodically, the material has a collective cohesion with meditative sonorities. And the instrumentation, partially written out and partially freely imagined, is slowly but clearly measured and purposeful. Liebman and Evans have the foreground, while pianist Ron Stabinsky (who was also important in rehearsals and during the post-production mix) and bassist Tony Marino (who maintains a quiet determination throughout) deliver genteel support.

The opener, “Dreamed-Out March,” has a subtle but intentional shape, with gently rhythmic piano, and sets the album’s ambiance: the 12-tone structure contains consistency and firmness, counterpoised by the group’s spontaneous looseness. When Evans and Liebman solo together, they convey a reflective connotation and expression, while at other times the two produce an assortment of sounds which emphasize the baritone saxophone’s lower-level timbre as well as both horn’s upper octave range. The material becomes a bit more esoteric during the four-minute “Certain Soprano,” where Liebman dexterously links tonality and atonality, while never overstepping into chaotic free jazz. Marino (who has previously worked with Liebman, including on an Ornette Coleman tribute) applies a sensitive undercurrent on his upright bass, with just the right amount of rhythmic precision and understated beauty.

The two most dynamic pieces also happen to be the longest. The 12-minute “Mahler Method” comprises several poly-chord sequences, and is a choice example of Evans’ writing, which combines the personal with the universal, and employs introspective improvisations alongside equally thoughtful through-composed sections. The elongated unison lines by Evans and Liebman are marvelously seamless, particularly because Liebman, according to the liner notes, had not seen the music beforehand. The 15-minute title track extends the overall mood into a swelter of pre-conceived ideas and unrehearsed force. The music is more agitated, has moments of pulsing momentum, and there is an intense improvised section which showcases the push-pull and dissonance of the doubled horns. Subliminal Leaps was recorded at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, where Evan’s duo album with pianist Neil Shah, Live at St. Stephens, was also taped. The location provides exquisite and resonant acoustics, which accentuate the acoustic piano’s eloquence; Marino’s moderate bass; and the comparative and also contrasting timbre qualities of the saxes. Interested parties can stream a two-minute promo video which has excerpts from the live recording date.

TrackList: Dreamed-Out March; Certain Soprano; Mahler Method; Interruptions; Subliminal Leaps; Reprise.

—Doug Simpson




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