Hard Way Out
THE HARD WAY OUT - DIGI LINER NOTES by Scott Yanow, Jazz Journalist and Author of Ten Books including The Jazz Singers, Trumpet Kings, Jazz On Film and Jazz On Record 1917-76. In his career, Chicago-based saxophonist Evan Coleman has performed in a wide variety of settings and styles including dance music, hip hop and funk. However one of his main dreams has long been to perform jazz on a regular basis and to record a jazz CD. The release of The Hard Way Out is the realization of the second half of his goal and is a very impressive effort. Evan Coleman is rightfully enthusiastic about his musicians. "I look for sidemen who play with emotion, connect with one another during a performance, and are able to get along together outside of the recording session and the stage. I met bassist Jeff Harris when we went to college at Columbia College in Chicago in the early 1990s. He is a great listener and always plays what the song requires. Drummer Frank Parker and I have a long history together. In college when I did my student teaching, my assignment was to teach high school students. He was a high school senior in the jazz band. 15 years later we ran into each other, he called on me to play on a couple of different dates, and we found it fun to work together. Keyboardist Justin Dillard is a unique talent who is one of the top jazz keyboardists in Chicago. He gives songs new life by deconstructing and reconstructing them." As for the leader, Evan has a distinctive sound that is both mellow and passionate, and a style that manages to be accessible and explorative at the same time. On The Hard Way Out, he performs his own originals and surprising versions of a few standards. His rhythm section is tight and there are many fine solos from Evan and Justin Dillard along with heated interplay. The opening selection, "A Song For Sudan," is a mysterious one-chord piece that sounds Middle-Eastern. Justin's keyboards recall Herbie Hancock in the 1970s while Evan's tenor is full of passion and hope. Freddie Hubbard's "Little Sunflower" is normally played as a ballad but this unique version, the idea of the keyboardist, is soulful, funky and taken at a much faster pace than expected. "We wanted something funky and recognizable. Coincidentally while we were putting all of this together, Freddie Hubbard passed away. It seems a little surreal to me that we were working on this song at the same time." "Little Sunflower" sounds like a brand new song in this arrangement and the fiery interplay by Evan and Justin over the long closing vamp is a highlight. "Serengeti" is a heated piece that is often surprisingly tranquil, a passionate performance that is also calming. Thelonious Monk's "'Round Midnight," like "Little Sunflower," is played in a very different way than usual. The new funky lines fit the piece well and the musicians excel at the medium tempo. "The Descent From Arenal" is a piece inspired by an Evan Coleman's family vacation. "Arenal is a volcano in Costa Rica. The roads are very treacherous and the drive is both dangerous and beautiful." Guitarist Jeff Parker, who Evan met while attending Berklee in 1986, is a guest on this intense and dramatic performance. "Cottage Grove Island" is the name of a street in Chicago that has a long musical history. This original has the energy and the pulse of the wide variety of music that Evan heard emanating from many different houses and cars when he was a child. Concluding The Hard Way Out in a very mellow and sensual manner is Evan's version of Sade's "Lovers Rock," which is in an easy-listening groove with a light reggae feel. Born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, Evan Coleman grew up around music. His great great uncle had been a boogie-woogie pianist, his mother studied piano, and his parents frequented jazz clubs; Sarah Vaughan, Toshiko Akiyoshi and Lew Tabackin were among their friends. Evan started on the clarinet in third grade and switched his focus to the saxophone when he was 11. He heard all kinds of music from Handel and Beethoven symphonies to the Pointer Sisters, Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock and Lester Young. When he was 18, Evan attended Berklee. While home on Christmas break, he had his first important musical job, subbing with the pit band that accompanied the Temptations. Evan graduated from Columbia College, worked for a time as a performing bartender at the local Hyatt Regency, and was a member of the 14-piece funk band Uptighty. He also recorded with Tortoise, played live with Wilco in 2004, worked in many different situations, and recorded commercial dates, sometimes functioning as an associate producer. Evan Coleman considers The Hard Way Out to be "a sonic landscape. It is our vision of today's Chicago soul jazz combined with the influence of West Africa." For the future he looks forward to performing with the quartet as often as possible, bringing his fresh, spirited and joyful music to the public, helping to invigorate the 21st century jazz scene.