What’s behind The Red Door? For pianist Orrin Evans, that question has come to symbolize the daring path his life and music have taken over the course of his three- decade career for taking musical and personal chances. Released June 16th on Smoke Session Records, on this latest album, he once again flings that door open, delighting in the collaborators, friends, inspiration, and history that he finds inside.
Evans convenes a truly all-star affair featuring Nicholas Payton, Gary Thomas, Robert Hurst, Marvin “Smitty” Smith, with special appearances Buster Williams, Larry McKenna, Gene Jackson, the late great Wallace Roney, as well as guest vocalists Jazzmeia Horn, Sy Smith, and Alita Moses.
Growing up in the Pentecostal church, Evans explains, the color red came to signify the negative: think blood, sin, the temptation embodied in red light districts, all things infernal. Approaching a red door, then, is a daunting prospect. The image manifested for him recently when he overheard someone say, “I don’t see color” – itself something of a red flag.
“I’ve realized that along with red meaning ‘warning’ or ‘stop,’ it also represents so many beautiful things,” he says. “Roses are red, and Valentine’s hearts. So, I do see color, and we all should see color, but we shouldn’t see the negative history that comes along with it. Instead, we need to allow ourselves the opportunity to walk inside and discover what’s behind the red door.”
The musicians with whom he collaborates may not always know what to expect when they walk into an Orrin Evans studio date, but he flings that red door open for them. Now it’s the listeners’ turn to enter. “It’s a swinging party on the inside.”