While moments of jazz improvisation may sometimes sound like instruments battling, Adison Evans prefers to think of her music as spirited conversation. Her baritone sax provides a rich, sultry solution to the discord of current politics, and while her debut album Hero, released in February, doesn’t directly address any of this year’s crises, it was meant to heal. “This album was me trying to write a cure for myself,” she says.
Trained in jazz and classical music at Juilliard and then invited to tour with Beyonce and Jay-Z from 2012-14, the 26-year-old made an album of eight original tracks and four thoughtfully-orchestrated treatments by artists who have shaped her, including a jazz-infused version ‘Blue’, her former boss’s tribute to daughter Blue Ivy. There is an overarching theme of growth, self-realization, and interdependence; on “Respirare,” she describes the undulation of energy that reflects a debate between two opposing perspectives. “It grows and at the end it climaxes into this kind of cacophony of improvising together amongst the group,” she says. The riffs and melodies coalesce, feeding off of each other to pull the listener into the unified message of the track: just breathe.
Evans intends the tracks as melodic salves, and so as we leave summer and barrel toward November, we called up Evans before her show at Fat Cat on October 16 to guide us through her top picks for diffusing tension, promoting self-awareness, and providing a little respite from the noise.
Adison Evans: We finished touring in Europe with Beyonce and Jay and instead of flying back to New York I decided to move to Italy. I was training for a half-marathon at the time so I was running everyday though these vineyards and these fields with very Tuscan panoramic views. I kept hearing this melody, and even though I didn’t know what direction I was going in my life, I was like, it’s alright because I’m present in this moment.”
“Do What’s Best For You”
This is the first song I’ve ever written with lyrics, and it’s an anthem for myself or a reminder to look inward. It’s [also] a reminder to those to take personal time and to reflect on your views, outside of the influences of others
“Open Your Eyes”
It’s a nice melody that’s also a reflective piece. It’s a song that I wrote for myself when I was traveling the world. Very often, I’d say, ‘Adison, open your eyes and look around’.The melody starts out softer and it’s got a really round, full sound. You have these really beautiful round timbred instruments that are playing a melody in unison, so it’s a flowing melody.
This one is just a really fun song. It’s a total feel-good, escape-from-the-world song. It’s inspired by this Australian folkloric legend of evil ‘dropbears.’ My boyfriend is from Australia and told me they look like koala bears but they’re evil and hang out in trees to drop on tourists’ heads – especially Americans. It’s totally tongue in cheek. It’s a boogaloo so it’s gon an infectious groove. It hits. It’s steeped in the tradition of jazz, kind of almost New Orleans-ish but with a modern melody.
“Ribbon in the Sky”
I mean, it’s Stevie Wonder. That is cool to me. It’s such an amazing song so there isn’t much that one would want to change. I had Stevie in my head, trying to lyrically play the way a vocalist would. And we kind of change up the groove a little but. I specifically wanted to end this song with solo piano – one time through the melody with solo piano as a thank you to Stevie Wonder.