Hearing Aide: Alan Evans Trio ‘Woodstock Sessions Volume I’

Recorded in one magical evening with a small studio audience and comprised of a straight take with no overdubs, the Alan Evans Trio‘s Woodstock Sessions Volume I is a timeless document of a musical moment of creation. Developed over the course of an intimate evening at Applehead Recording Studios, the recording retains the freshness of an improvised performance as well as the crispness of a studio recording. The magic is to be found in the communication between the players, who were unfazed by the recording machinery and luminescent red recording light.  The trio successfully captured the live vibe and thick atmosphere of the concert experience.

Drummer and band leader Alan Evans immediately conducts the band through the 80+ minute set, beginning with a funktified and extended run through of the fuzzy and smooth, ‘They Call Me Velvet’.  The power of the trio is on full display immediately as Beau Sasser’s organ saturates the air with the sound of multiple instruments. The thick, creamy funk of the band is their specialty.  As they slide into ‘If You Want My Love’, guitarist Danny Mayer strikes out with classic James Brown chord structures, meeting with Evans’ emotive beats to equal a hip street walking ass shake.

The track ‘Thor,’ the subject of which is a guitar amp, fittingly features some nimble-fingered riffing by Mayer, touching on some of the fringes of acid jazz. The joy here is that the band is playing fully orchestrated and arranged pieces that contain uniquely original improvisational passages brimming with joyful attitude. ‘Have You Seen Him,’ contains themes that elicit memories of the grooviest ‘Shakedown Street’ with an envelope filtered guitar that works in conjunction with the drums while Sasser’s organ paints in long broad strokes.

‘Crooooz’ is a highlight of the set with a luscious groove that sets the perfect backdrop for more atmospheric organ excursions reminiscent of some earthy Jimmy Smith. The band keeps the marathon live recording moving forward breathlessly, changing tempos, keys, and vibes at the drop of a dime. The diversity of the band gets an airing with the ‘spoken word’ and classically jazzy, ‘What Happens In the Woods.’ Scattered and spacey drumming in conjunction with a star-dust guitar dressing provides the framework for Evans’ humorous story telling.

The evening concludes with another highlight, the aggressive and powerful ‘Cosmic Hazeldust’, containing all of the impressive elements that make up the band and the recording. Slick keyboard exclamations, wildly on point guitar work, and the knockout punch of Evans thunderous drum kit.

Taken as a whole, the entire Woodstock Sessions Volume I plays out like a created storyboard, each musical excursion a beautifully created scene. Organically developed, yet tight and practiced, the album reaches numerous peaks and euphoric highs. The organ lines intertwine with the guitar melodies, playing off of the multiple rhythmic ideas of the drums.  The recording captures music during its genesis as it’s developed by the minds and fingers of the players and disseminated to the hearts and ears of the listeners.

Key Tracks: They Call Me Velvet, Thor, Cosmic Hazeldust

Check out the full album here.