Friday, May 21, 2021

Gabriel Evan Orchestra: “Global Entry” (2021) CD Review

Saxophonist Gabriel Evan leads his orchestra through some refreshing and enjoyable tunes on his new album, Global Entry. This disc features mostly covers, some of the music coming from the classical realm, well-known material here given delicious jazz arrangements. There are also a couple of compositions by Gabriel Evan. The group is made up of Gabriel Evan on alto saxophone and soprano saxophone, Joe Goldberg on clarinet and tenor saxophone, John Zarsky on trumpet, Joe Kennedy on piano, Ben Fox on upright bass, and Michael Voelker on drums and percussion. Gabriel Evan is also a member of the group The Bailsmen, and he applies some of that great gypsy jazz sound and energy here.

With a title like Global Entry, you might expect this music to take you to different places around the world. And indeed it does. The disc opens with a delightful rendition of “Waltz Of The Flowers,” a piece composed by Tchaikovsky as part of The Nutcracker in the late 1800s. Not only does this album take us to different places, but different times, and the year of each composition is listed in the disc’s liner notes. This track has a fairly full sound, sounding like more musicians are taking part than actually are. Gabriel Evan picks up the pace of this beautiful Tchaikovsky composition, giving it a lighter, more fun vibe, and making it swing, setting the tone for the album. Gabriel Evan then takes us to Cuba in the 1930s for another completely enjoyable number, the Lecuona Cuban Boys’ “Rumba Azul.” This music is so good, and it has a timeless sense of innocence that is particularly appealing. There is romance, sure, but it is an innocent type of romance, kisses on the dance floor. This is music to make you happy. We return to Russia of the late 1800s with “Arabian Nightmare,” an arrangement by trumpeter Charlie Shavers of a piece from Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov titled “Scheherazade,” or at least a part of that work. It begins in a somewhat dramatic place, as you’d probably expect, and then suddenly opens up into such a light and adorable place that the first time I heard this track, I laughed for the pure, unexpected joy of it. This is wonderful stuff.

Then we get the first of the album’s two original composition, “South 5th Street,” taking us to contemporary New York. Well, sort of contemporary, because of course there is still something of a timeless quality here, which I appreciate, particularly as the present isn’t always so desirable. Though I suppose another way of looking at it is that this group makes the present sound great by linking the best of the past with our current time. Well, whatever, this is a really good track. I wish all my trips to New York had been as enjoyable as this piece. That’s followed by an excellent rendition of “Diane (Tropical Moon).” And then we travel to the 1920s, with a great, loose rendition of “Singin’ The Blues,” the piano keeping everything grounded in a speakeasy while the horns are swinging above, and everyone is dancing, with no thoughts of tomorrow, for the present moment is everything. We remain in the 1920s for a rendition of Duke Ellington’s “Jubilee Stomp” that moves and hops and plays and breathes, and delights throughout. It is a whole lot of fun, and I want it to just go on and on.

The album’s other original composition is “Negotiations Of South Williamsburg,” but again, it feels like it is coming from another time, another place, regardless of its title. This one has a strong capability to charm us and lead us into whatever mischief it likes, and after a little bit, it picks up the pace. Okay, at that point it has a New York pace, no question. By the way, Gabriel Evan also performed this piece with The Bailsmen, and it is included on that group’s self-titled 2014 release. This track does slow down again in the second half, and before the end it begins to race. This is one of my personal favorites. We are then taken to London of the 1600s for a piece written by playwright Ben Jonson in 1616 (the year Shakespeare died), though I’m fairly certain it sounded nothing like this when it was first performed. The arrangement is by Charlie Shavers, and it has more of a snappy, cheerful sound than other versions you might have heard.

Gabriel Evan Orchestra delivers a version of Henry Mancini’s “Lujon” that has a somewhat smooth, relaxed vibe. I feel like I can get lost in the shag carpet and mood lighting. And why not? That’s followed by the seriously cool “Effervescent Blues,” written by Charlie Shavers in 1939, featuring some wonderful stuff on piano. The album then concludes with the Lecuona Cuban Boys’ “Rumba Tambah,” another delightful number from the 1930s, one that will have you smiling and wondering how there could possibly be any despair and suffering in the world. Ah, life is so fleeting, and this music has that sense of brevity, an awareness of it, but looks for joy within that span of time.

CD Track List

  1. Waltz Of The Flowers
  2. Rumba Azul
  3. Arabian Nightmare
  4. South 5th Street
  5. Diane (Tropical Moon)
  6. Singin’ The Blues
  7. Jubilee Stomp
  8. Negotiations Of South Williamsburg
  9. Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes
  10. Lujon
  11. Effervescent Blues
  12. Rumba Tambah

Global Entry was released on April 30, 2021.

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