One of two new albums, clarinetist Evan Christopher had issued in 2010, Remembering Song (Arbors), is another exploration in following the clarinet road he has has embarked on the last two decades or so. A 2011 Jazz Journalist Association finalist for clarinet, and a favorite of Nat Hentoff and the late Ahmet Ertegun, Christopher is joined by a fine quartet with legendary Bucky Pizzarelli on acoustic guitar, James Chirillo on electric guitar and bassist Greg Cohen. As quoted in Larry Blumenfeld’s notes, Christopher observes “By not using drums, the texture is more introspective, more subtle.”
After a brief introduction of The Remembering Song, the group launches into Christopher’s original The Wrath of Grapes” inspired by a wine shop-cum-performance space in the Bywater area which has embedded within a quote from Louis Prima’s Sing Sing Sing. Its a lively performance with Christopher’s warm, fluid swooping tone complemented by the band and Chirillo takes a nice horn like solo. Way Down in New Orleans starts at a languid, dreamy tempo with the interplay between Christopher’s warm woody tone accented by Chirillo’s single note responses, before the performance revives a tango section in the original sheet music before transitioning back to the dreamy mood for the lovely close. Christopher’s The River By the Road is inspired by a quote from Sidney Bechet’s autobiography with bassist Cohen taking a solo on a performance that conjures up a picnic on a delightful spring day.
Tommy Ladnier is somewhat forgotten figure these days but he had a close association with Sidney Bechet, and his Mojo Blues is a lovely minor key tune with a bluesy mood and wonderful solos from all four. Bechet is inspiration for You Gotta Treat it Gentle another lovely melody that Christopher develops and caresses. The quartet take what Blumenfeld describes as a deliberate tempo on the rarely performed Jelly Roll Morton ruminative composition, My Home Is a Southern Town followed by the delightfully lazy Serenade. The Remembering Song heard in a full rendition, is an original that sounds so familiar yet new and the performance particularly sings.
Evan Christopher is a thoughtful person who continues to mine what some would consider traditional byways of jazz, yet brings a contemporary approach along with substantial lyricism and soulfulness to his music. Remembering Song is simply amongst the latest recording of his sublime playing and music.
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