Falkner Evans

(Consolidated Artists Productions)

Let’s begin with the positive: Falkner Evans possesses superb writing chops. Though well known for his trio recordings, he demonstrates throughout Marbles that he can arrange sensitively for three horns. His ear for voicing is fine-tuned; the charts he produces are without flaw.

They are also without much drama or surprise. The first nine tracks here purr over grooves that never quite ignite. Some of them swing a bit, like the jaunty “Dear West Village.” Others drift by more slowly, such as “Sing Alone,” which Evans kicks off with a thoughtful unaccompanied rumination. But these departures occur within a fairly narrow range of tempi; no deep ballads or post-bop sprints. As a result, the improvisations—even the overblown tenor moments on “Marbles”—feel reined in, if not de rigueur.

The 10th track does stand out, and not coincidentally, it’s the only one Evans didn’t write. It’s also the shortest selection—less than a minute-and-a-half—consisting of a single chorus of Mercer Ellington’s “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be.” Briefly, we glimpse what these players can do if allowed to stretch a bit. Then, too soon, they’re done and already it’s
closing time.