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“The King of all Instruments”

Hot Cup Records, the label that brought you Mostly Other People Do the Killing, presents a multi-layered solo baritone saxophone recording of chromatic and introspective music *

“Charles Evans has really done something special with the big horn going beyond the normal vernacular to create a truly unique soundscape. The writing, the playing, and the concept itself are all beyond the norm. This is the bari sax as it has never been heard.” — David Liebman

“Finding horn players who specializes on baritone saxophone is rare indeed! That’s why I was so delighted to hear Charles Evans. He’s really got that baritone under control — great stuff! Give this young man’s music a listen; you’ll be hearing more of him on the big horn!” — John Surman

Charles Evans’ fourth CD as a leader establishes the now seasoned baritone saxophone artist as a truly unique voice in the creative music community. Evans has thoughtfully considered how to tackle the difficult challenge of chromatic harmony on “The King of all Instruments,” (March 10, 2009, HotCup 084) a multi-layered, exclusively baritone saxophone, solo album. From grumbling roots to dissonant altissimo clusters and every pitch and timbre in between, nearly three and a half octaves of the instrument are utilized throughout the work. Evans has been steadfast in his mission to push the baritone saxophone forward, taking his cue from David Liebman’s infatuation with the soprano saxophone, and in particular “The Loneliness of a Long Distance Runner,” a quarter century before. An affinity for the neglected members of the saxophone family and a specific shared artistic ideology speak volumes about each of these individuals and their musical choices. A robust tone, reminiscent of late Coltrane’s lushness with a wide, even vibrato, beautifully expanded altissimo range, and virtuosic improvisational skills, has enabled Evans to reach an important landmark in his sincere and uncompromising career.

Economy of improvisation over dense poly-chords is but one aspect of this varied project. Despite stated jazz influences and predecessors, this music is genre nonspecific and often avoids employing the traditional jazz vocabulary. The combination of jazz harmonies (albeit in poly-chordal form) 20th century classical techniques and free improvisation demonstrate Evans’ refusal to limit himself and allow his music to be pigeonholed. Poly-chords, traditionally non-programmatic, are presented at times with the subtlest dynamic, creating a sonic landscape that drips with genuine introspective love. This is countered with the use of freely associated triads and chromatic lines in solo improvisation, with accompaniment in the form of fearsome multi-phonics, squeals, and other extended techniques, creatively added at an unusual time – AFTER improvisation. Quarter-tones, notes existing between the traditional 12-note temperament, can be found a plenty on The King of all Instruments, in both improvisation and composition. The listener may even catch a few minutes of strict 12-tone writing.

The sentimental program Evans provides in his heartfelt liner notes suggest the clichès of Ionian resolution; Evans shatters this notion by standing strong next to the beauty of polytonality (simultaneous key-centers) and the increased expressiveness of a wider harmonic palette. Evans dissolves programmatic stereotypes when one considers his titles and intent with the methods and materials he has chosen to express himself. Unexpected concepts await the listener at the very turn, bringing to mind Evans’ hero Charles Ives and his use of surprise, quotation, and blatantly inconsistent juxtaposition. The similarity to Ives extends into personal life as well, as both composers chose to pursue their musical careers as separate from their professional lives. Evans and Ives walked the same streets of New York by day, the former as a high school teacher, the latter as an insurance man, returning to the seclusion of home to compose despite the dearth of listeners willing to exert the energy necessary to fully appreciate their music.

Charles Evans (b. Sept. 6, 1978) was raised in a small town named Factoryville, Pa. Evans began intensive baritone saxophone study with the late Bill Zaccagni at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. During this time he also studied with David Liebman, who instilled an artistic mindset in the young baritonist and inspired him to pursue music to his fullest potential. Following Liebman’s cue, Evans moved to New York, where he received a Master’s degree in jazz performance while studying with Antonio Hart. He completed the Music Education program at Queens College for state certification.

Charles Evans’ artistic past is as unorthodox and multifarious as the musical elements of The King of All Instruments. He began his recording career with a widely sought after reading of classic Ballads on the Greatbend label. Evans subsequently formed a critically acclaimed microtonal bebop band called The Language Of, with the world-reknowned trumpet virtuoso Peter Evans and Mostly Other People Do the Killing’s bandleader Moppa Elliott on bass. The group has released two recordings, “It Needs It” on Hot Cup Records, and “No Relation“on Greatbend. Evans (Charles) describes the style of improvisation employed in this group, rapidly oscillating between bebop vernacular and extended-techniques, as “light-switch be-bop.”

In addition to his work in standard quartet settings, Evans has explored political antagonism mixed with electro-acoustic improvisation. His performance art piece, “Tuxedo to Speedo” requires months and months of bodybuilding, culminating with live posing to Arnold Schwarzenegger, Boots Randolph, and a layered montage of A.M. radio voices. His political views are as unique as his delivery on the baritone saxophone; love of country expressed muscularly and cleverly (be patient and await the final phrase of The King of all Instruments.) Recently he has been selected to represent the United States on George Haslam’s baritone saxophone CD, a compiling of the works of baritonists from the countries of England, Italy, Finland, Russia, Cuba and America.

Evans dedicates the entire work to the memory of his first steady baritone instructor from his formative years, Bill Zaccagni. This is contrasted with humorous photos showcasing him venerating the baritone (as well as taking emphasis off of himself; nowhere can one see his face.) The baritone saxophone has a new leader, one fed up with the parameters Pepper Adams unintentionally established. In the words of Larry Hollis, “. . . like Pepper Adams on acid . . . this young man is onto something, and he means to get to the bottom of it.” Charles Evans has made his royal case with the release of “The King of all Instruments.”

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