The Switchville Junction Philadelphia, PA
Players: Orrin Evans, Fender Rhodes piano; Matthew Parrish, acoustic bass; Byron Landham, drums; Michelle Lordi, vocals
Material: The Reunion Trio is comprised of seasoned jazz vets that play a tasty mixed bag of postmodern originals, choice standards and rare gems. Much of their program has a distinct Blue Note/CTI Records ‘60s-‘70s vibe to it. Orrin Evans’ compositions like “When Jen Came In” and “Dorm Life” leave a lot of room for exploration and are harmonically dense. Special guest Michelle Lordi brings another dimension, with her smooth and soulful renditions of Hoagy Carmichael’s obscure and beautiful “Winter Moon,” “Lover Man” and her own “Poor Bird.”
Musicianship: The members of The Reunion Trio have been associated with the Philly scene for over 30 years. When you have that kind of history between you it’s almost like everyone is operating on the same wavelength. There is simpatico at work where each musician seems to anticipate the next phrase or chord. Evans seems to come from the Corea/Hancock school in the way he volleys ideas back and forth to Parrish and drummer Byron Landham. Evans’ playful approach to solos is a well-measured blend of space and copious bursts of energy. Parrish elicits poise and articulation in his timbre and string bends. And there are some exciting unison sections where he and Evans succinctly lock in melodies and harmonies like second nature. Landham adds distinct color and accents, with nuanced brush strokes and cymbal work. Lordi is not only technically proficient in her vocalizing, but she brings a sense of poetry and cinematic depth to the lyrics.
Performance: The trio performed two 60-minute sets on a recent Sunday afternoon. The sparse office space they occupied seemed to provide plenty of natural resonance. They began with a tune called “Ein Bahn Strasse.” Evans kicked off the theme, with odd intervals a la Thelonius Monk. From there the band blossomed into a streamlined and swinging collective. It was a nice mix of bluesy motifs and some unexpected moments. They immediately segued into Cole Porter’s “I Love You.” This showcased a lovely intro by Parrish which led to an open and lighter group feel. The addition of Lordi in both sets was like icing on the proverbial cake. From ballads to sambas and beyond, her delivery captured the heart and soul of each song.
Summary: The Reunion Trio has played with some of the biggest names in modern jazz, such as Houston Person, Joey DeFrancesco, Christian MacBride and Betty Carter. They brought that dynamic pedigree to this venue for a truly memorable performance.