Faculty & Staff

Orrin Evans
Lecturer, Jazz Studies

During his kaleidoscopic quarter-century as a professional jazz musician, pianist Orrin Evans has become the model of a fiercely independent artist who pushes the envelope in all directions.

Evans has ascended to top-of-the-pyramid stature on his instrument, ranked the #1 “Rising Star Pianist” in the 2018 DownBeat Critics Poll. GRAMMY nominations for the albums The Intangible Between and Presence (Smoke Sessions), by Evans’ raucous, risk-friendly Captain Black Big Band, cement his bona fides as a bandleader and composer.

A deft tune deconstructor, Evans commands vocabulary across a broad timeline of swinging, blues-infused hardcore jazz and spiritual/avant garde jazz dialects, as well as the Euro-canon, and conveys his stories with the intuitive spontaneity of an ear player. He projects an instantly recognizable sound, sometimes creating flowing rubato tone poems, sometimes embodying the notion that the piano comprises 88 tuned drums.

Evans’ stylistically polyglot compositions – influenced by the expansive, individuality-first Black Music culture of his native Philadelphia and a decade playing Charles Mingus’ music in the Mingus Big Band – create an environment of “structured freedom” that instigates personnel to push the envelope in all his multifarious leader and collaborative projects. These include the Eubanks Evans Experience (with guitarist Kevin Eubanks); the Brazilian unit Terreno Comum; Evans’ working trio with bassist Luques Curtis and drummer Mark Whitfield; Jr.; and Tar Baby, a 20-year collective trio with bassist Eric Revis and drummer Nasheet Waits.

Evan’s discography includes over 20 albums, the most recent being Magic of Now (Smoke Sessions). One of Tar Baby’s two 2022 releases will be released on his imprint, Imani Records, which he founded in 2001 and relaunched in 2018.

An influential educator, Evans is devoted to passing the torch to new generations. His students include alto saxophonist and Blue Note artist Immanuel Wilkins and GRAMMY-nominated pianist Brandon Goldberg.