Baritone saxophone player Charles Evans is a new artist on the scene and a welcome discovery. Ballads, recorded in March of 2004, is the first release in Evans’ discography. Evans holds a bachelor’s degree in jazz from the University of Arts in Philadelphia, and has studied with David Liebman. You might think this is another standards album by the new kid on the block to show off his chops. However, Ballads reveals Charles Evans as talented musician and composer, not just another sax-wielding wunderkind.
Evans’ tone is warm and breathy. He plays in the upper registers of his instrument, sounding a lot more like a tenor than baritone at times. Still, an underlying trace of throaty growl and plenty of excursions into the instruments lower registers assured me I was listening to a baritone saxophone. Evan’s band mates, all long time acquaintances, supply marvelous support, and solo skillfully when called upon.
The disc begins and ends with a pair of lovely duets (written by Evans) with guitarist Erik Dulko, "Alas Dances" and "For Ta." Dulko’s guitar tone is airy and reverberant (think early Pat Metheny) with a twinge of distortion for added color. Further highlights include Evans’ plaintive, albeit similar, reading of Wayne Shorter’s "Infant Eyes," with a delicate solo by bassist Elliot and a brief cadenza by Evans. Jimmy Van Huesen’s "Like Someone in Love" is treated to a fresh arrangement by Evans, who nudges the tempo up a bit, imparting some welcome variety to the program. On "Body and Soul," Evans teams up with pianist Shah where they give Johnny Green’s wonderful tune a plaintive and soulful reading.
Aside from the scant bio and press sheet sent with the review copy, little information is available about Charles Evans. Likewise, a search of the Internet for a retailer from which to purchase Ballads yields just one source. Perhaps one of the major jazz labels will add Evans to their roster so he gets the recognition and distribution he deserves.