Gabriel Evan Orchestra – Island Hoping (ENG review)

Gabriel Evan Music – Street date June 7th 2024
Gabriel Evan Orchestra – Island Hoping

Here is a well-made, charmingly retro album, the work of Gabriel Evan. His third album, Island Hopping, continues his exploration of Caribbean jazz and folk music from the early to mid-twentieth century, which began with his previous record, Global Entry. The influences range from Cuba’s Lecuona Cuban Boys to Venezuela’s Lionel Belasco, and everywhere in between. This style of jazz is not currently broadcast on Bayou Blue Radio, but it will soon have a place in a specialized show, “Jazz Of The Week,” which will present the best new jazz albums released each week.

Gabriel Evan, a talented saxophonist and clarinetist passionate about this form of Latin jazz, doesn’t just reinterpret it; he also offers particularly clever arrangements that give the album a wonderful dynamism. Pani Ti Moun, a beguine from the early 1930s from the island of Martinique, sets the tone for the album with its highly danceable groove. Carmencita (1933) – one of two classic Lionel Belasco waltzes on the record – presents the more languid and delicate side of the album, with Evan and trombonist Charlie Halloran trading passages back and forth. Halloran himself leads Charlie & the Tropicales, a 60s-style Caribbean lounge band based in New Orleans, making him – along with band members Jafet Perez and Pete Olynciw – a perfect fit for the album.

In 15 tracks, Evan revives a part of early twentieth-century jazz history, reminding us that the great strength of jazz is its ability to adapt to various styles. Indeed, Boychick Calypso, the first original track on the album, is true to its title (Boychick means “young boy” in Yiddish), as its playful melody brings a childlike energy to the listeners’ ears. Jafet showcases his skills with his fills, keeping the energy high throughout the piece and supporting the four soloists. Habana Hammock – the album’s second original composition by Evan – invokes the more peaceful side of the record. The simple melody and relaxed island groove established by pianist Kris Tokarski transport the listener to an isolated beach, lounging seaside without a care in the world. Guitarist Josh Dunn, who traveled from NYC to Crescent City to record with Evan and company, plays a calming and introspective solo, one of the best on the record.

One should take the time to listen to this album, which is full of exciting rhythms and colors, often amusing, and imagine the immense work that went into selecting and arranging 15 tracks to bring this album to life. This album is certainly one of our “Favorites,” and we warmly recommend it to anyone sensitive to this form of jazz.

Thierry De Clemensat
USA correspondent – Paris-Move and ABS magazine
Editor in chief Bayou Blue Radio, Bayou Blue News

PARIS-MOVE, June 1st 2024

Follow PARIS-MOVE on X