Peter Evans-Genesis: Album Review

Peter Evans has gained a reputation in the jazz community for being a freak of nature.  His ability to jump between vastly different, unexplored corners of the trumpet in an instant may just be completely unmatched by any other player on earth.  Genesis certainly reinforces Evans’ technical chops.  Angular creations reign king throughout the record, with Evans also spending large swaths of space on extended techniques. Overall—however—the record remains a bit obtuse.  At 97-minutes, Genesis is extraordinarily difficult to sit through and Evans’ ensemble doesn’t really do him any favors.  Obviously the quintet is a skilled group, but none of the players really provide a balancing agent.  With the likes of Jim Black and Sam Pluta in tow, a vast majority of the record is comprised of dense material that steps on the toes of Evans’ spastic offerings.

Evans stands alone for the first track, “Fanfares (Introduction).”  Beginning with an emphasis on bent notes and bursts of air, the track playfully dances around the listener’s ear.  Eventually, the extended techniques come to play with distorted multi-phonics exposing a harsh edge of Evans’ sound.  Still, my main reservation with the record—that it altogether lacks a solid sense of space—remains present with Evans’ lines continuously attacking the listener until the entrance of the ensemble for the next track.  With a bombastic swing rhythm looping throughout, “Fanfares” gives each member of the group time to show off their highest velocity material.  Ron Stabinsky jumps in for some aggressive lines before Sam Pluta seemingly reverses the rotation of the earth with some disorienting electronics.

The four course “Genesis/Schismogenesis” ensues next.  “Stage 1” provides a nice swooning effect where velocity and volume rapidly increase and decrease making for a nice rhythmic pulse.  Pluta and Black take a bit of a backseat role until the second half of the tune so that the groove takes its time in development.  The second “Stage” maintains a bit of the momentum of the first but the wall of sound dissipates at the beginning to leave Evans in space for some Bitches Brew-esque trumpet squawks.  The spaciness is rather fleeting however, as the track switches gears to arrive at the same plateau of chaos of the “Fanfares.”  “Stage 3” jumps into some blistering eight-note lines before the final section offers one final groove seemingly accompanied by a laugh track (no comment).  Overall my experience with the record still remains decently positive for the first half.  Although the group probably could’ve strived for more subtlety, the general flow of the first handful of tracks is sensible with logical track lengths making for a cohesive flow.

“Patient Zero” is where the record begins to become out of proportion.  At 15 minutes in length—coming after a dense beginning of the record—the tune is simply too much.  A consistent slapping rhythmic effect starts things off with anxious synth lines pushing Evans into some high-range material.  The instances of space are far too short lived and again the ensemble evens out to a general plateau of chaos far too quickly.  Also, the flow of the album is offset a bit as the track sort of just resets the momentum that had been built up to that point without logically spawning from the previous track.

The even more massive “3 for Alice Coltrane” series offers more of the same material of the first side.  “Intergalactic” begins with a lot of spacey drones and some rather laid back long tones from Evans, but again the track too quickly shifts gears, jumping into chaos.  This idea of “shifting gears” also seems to harm the project’s concept of space as even when the record takes a breath, a rather direct route is taken to chaos with no real build-up.  After this track, the ensemble just goes through the motions for a bit too long, with a redundant bass solo on “Interlude 1” and some dated synths on “12 Earthly Branches.”

Now obviously certain successful records over time have refused to compromise in intensity, but for this record the problem is that everything is so technically advanced and mathematical that the raw edge and groove gets sucked out.  Particularly towards the end of the record, it feels like every player is throwing their most difficult, angular material at you at once.  The resulting sonic environment of the record sounds like a vapid, lifeless space where the only inclination is to push harder and faster.  When Evans does jump into ambience on “Intergalactic,” the result is great, I only wish he had devoted entire tracks to it.

There’s certainly some good material coming together on “Genesis,” but overall the record is a bit too difficult to sit through.  I hope to see more attention paid to space and cohesion from this group in the future.

-Donovan Burtan

5/10

More is More Records is right.

Hear/purchase via bandcamp: https://peterevansmusic.bandcamp.com/album/genesis

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