As a pianist, Orrin Evans features a muscular attack with a meaty tonality and impatience with elongated or predictable phrasing. As an artist, he has emerged as a formidable, increasingly indispensable presence in jazz, whether leading the balls-to-the-wall Captain Black Big Band, the politically charged Tarbaby, or small ensemble recordings. Flip The Script is a trio outing with bassist Ben Wolfe and drummer Donald Edwards, both necessarily sturdy, exceptionally sentient players when charged with accompanying Evans’s dynamic approach, which blends supple conception with bold, brawny execution. Like Faith In Action from 2010, it contains Evans originals that are often jagged and fragmented but ever-purposeful, brimming with rough-and-tumble rhythms and ruminations variously reminiscent of McCoy Tyner, Muhal Richard Abrams, Bud Powell and Art Tatum. They are gusty and assured, with apt titles like “Clean House,” “Flip The Script” and “The Answer.” On a slower note, “Big Small” is a steadily stalking, rough-hewn blues that cuts deep into the blues tradition without losing a jazz sensibility.
Evans’s choice of covers are generally revealing for their contrasts and/or message. The four here begin with “Question,” a chopped up bebop number by Tarbaby bassist Eric Revis; and a rendition of Luther Vandross’s “A Brand New Day” that finds Evans in full McCoy Tyner mode much of the time. But the final two inject poignant reflection into the mix. The standard “Someday My Prince Will Come” is performed with prolonged, lingering resonance, highlighting the wistful and sadder aspect of a song usually framed more hopefully. And the closer, Gamble and Huff’s “The Sound Of Philadelphia,” is a touching eulogy for Soul Train creator and emcee Don Cornelius, who died six days before this recording session. “TSOP” was the Soul Train theme song, and Philadelphia also happens to be Evans’s hometown and ongoing wellspring of musical inspiration. His soulful take carries that weight just right.