Jazz pianist Orrin Evans will set the mood for those attending the Valentine’s Wine and Jazz Dinner tonight, Feb. 14 at World Cafe Live.
Performing as part of the Orrin Evans Quartet, Evans is regarded by many as an absolute piano maestro. He plays with an unusual balance of skill and soul, and his deep roots in music are unsurprising. Born in Trenton, N.J. and living in Philadelphia since he was 11, Evans was introduced to music by his mother, whom he said sang everything from classical music to show tunes. His father, although not a musician himself, was a playwright, and Evans said he had a certain appreciation for music.
“There was art surrounding me,” Evans said.
It’s safe to say that while seemingly constantly touring and recording, Evans is still surrounded by art today. Last week he finished recording his and his trio’s next studio album, and hopes to release the work in May.
When he’s not making music, the former full-time teacher at the Germantown Friends School spends his time pursuing a second love. Through teaching college workshops, Evans said he enjoys the opportunity to work with students looking to pursue music, and also for those he sees as prospective future audiences.
The Temple News: As a Philadelphia native, is there something special about playing in your town rather than touring?
Orrin Evans: I moved here when I was 11 and to be honest, I love touring, I love playing other places, but there’s something special to playing in Philly. You get a different vibe that I really appreciate.
TTN: What can the audience expect to hear at the Valentine’s Day show?
OE: Hopefully just some good tunes. Since it’s a Valentine’s Day show it’s going to be more focused on that – ballads, and just those songs that put you in that mood of love. I have a great singer, Carolyn Leonhart, singing along with me, coming in from New York. Really, I’m just hoping to get people in the mood and to have an enjoyable night.
TTN: Why might jazz be appropriate for Valentine’s Day?
OE: Because it’s sexy. I mean, there’s no other reason. It’s a very sexy and sensual music. It’s about love – not that any other music isn’t about love, but this is definitely a music that speaks to love and relationships.
TTN: What’s your favorite love song and why?
OE: There’s way too many, but one that I really like is Michael Jackson’s “She’s Out of My Life.” I know that’s not a good love song, but it’s pretty. It’s about love breaking up, but still, it’s beautiful.
TTN: It’s probably fair to say that jazz’s primary audience is not college-aged. Where would you suggest that newcomers to the genre begin?
OE: As far as Philadelphia, I would just say substitute it – start substituting whatever you would normally do on Friday with jazz just every once in awhile. Like, “Hey what do you want to do? Go to the movies, or go to a party?” Just every once in a while – and I don’t even want to say jazz, to be honest. Just substitute it with going out to hear live music, with real musicians. It doesn’t have to be a big concert like at the Wachovia Center. Just a small club, go check out some music. That’s the first step, and then you’ll get into just really appreciating the process of going and experiencing live music.
There’s already way too many resources to find out about new artists, whether it’s YouTube or anything else – there’s avenues to do it, but first just get that appreciation in your body for wanting to hear live music.
TTN: What’s special about the Philadelphia jazz scene compared to other cities?
OE: It’s big but small. There are a lot of different areas and a lot of different things you can get into, but everybody’s connected in some sort of way. There’s definitely a one degree of separation between everybody. It’s not even just jazz, it’s music in general. There’s more of a connection here than in other cities.
Jenelle Janci can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.