Reminiscence by Evan Knight – reviewed by Chris Mann

Evan Knight began playing saxophone at the age of 11. After only one year, he began listening to and transcribing the music of various contemporary jazz artists. His junior high-school music instructor David Frateschi recognized Evan’s talent and began introducing him to the world of traditional jazz.

Even before he picked up his first sax, one of Evan’s favorite artists was Michael Jackson. So as he became more serious about the sax, it was easy for him to relate to the funky modern styles of saxophonists David Sanborn, Gerald Albright, Maceo Parker and others.

In his freshman year of high school, Evan put together a band with a group of musician buddies playing some of their favorite contemporary jazz songs. One day when school was cancelled due to heavy snowfall, Evan and his friends got together to fool around with some music and ended up writing their first song, appropriately titled “Snow Day”. What started off as just something fun to do, later developed into a working band. As the Evan Knight Band, Evan and his friends performed at the Syracuse Jazz Fest, Oswego Harbor Fest, Fulton River Fest as well as other locations around Upstate New York.

After he had turned 18, Knight attended Warren Hill’s first annual Smooth Jazz Cruise in the Caribbean. While on the cruise, he won a Star Search Competition that afforded him the opportunity to perform on the main stage with Chieli Minucci and several other national artists on board.

Today, Knight is an active member of the Syracuse live music scene. He continues to take part in events such as the Syracuse Jazz Festival, Jazz in the City, Oswego Harborfest, and the Syracuse Inner Harbor. Having been dubbed a “sax phenom” and “musical wunderkind” by his peers and fans, Knight’s album “Reminiscence” is a highly anticipated mix of cool jazz, smooth R&B, and funk.

Knight’s cool alto sound and flowing lines appeal immediately on the vibrant, latin ‘Cool Breeze’. His band really plays as one and I particularly enjoyed Hiram Swain’s energetic piano solo. The title track is more in the ‘quiet storm’ vein and Knight is in charge of all the instrumentation and programming here so the alto sax is the star – and the melody on this original composition is strong.

On ‘Rock the Boat’ it’s a solo show again but the beat is to the fore for a midtempo dancer with layered horn lines that remind me of Konstantin Klashtorni’s very ear-grabbing sound. ‘Prelude to Magic/Magic in the Air’ creates an atmosphere with a lush string synth soundscape that swells and makes the tenor cry above it. Andy Rudy’s searing guitar adds a passionate edge to the main song and the clever use of light and shade makes this a grower.

The threat of funk at the start of ‘Sound Check’ doesn’t fully materialise but the groove is infectious and the verse sections are very strong indeed. It’s more than a groove though as it goes through key changes and an impassioned keyboard solo before returning to the comfort of that catchy verse. Bernie Reid’s forceful bass drives this tune to a very satisfying conclusion. Oh, the head is nodding – the funk showed up after all! The hollow piano sound and wacky drum programming surprised me at the start of ‘In Good Company’ but they’re heavy hints at the old-fashioned gospel-tinged feel that the song has overall. I can easily imagine this being covered by other artists and, yes, I can hear a gospel choir over that rhythm that just invites hand clapping.

We already got a dose of funk and you’d expect ‘Groove Town’ to follow up. Bernie’s baad bass lays the groove down and there’s lots of space to hear a sweet sax, nice live-sounding piano and Darneal Jackson laying back on those hi-hats like Funkadelic’s Jerome ‘Bigfoot’ Brailey used to on those live sets. In fact, Evan gets a little bit ‘Maceo’ on here and I like it! More of this boys… A ‘quiet storm’ vibe has us all slowing down for the gorgeous ‘Hopes & Dreams’, which for my money is the most ‘complete’ song on the CD. Knight and co-writer Max McKee make you feel that this is a full band – not just two talented guys and clever production. They could play this much longer and I’d still be happy. The closer is a reprise of ‘Groove Town’ and if I ever get to see Evan Knight live – even 10 years from now – I hope this is how he closes the show…

You know what? There isn’t a dull moment on this album. I like the parts where it gets romantic and I’m really happy when the funk rolls into town. Evan Knight, alto and tenor horn man, keyboardist and rhythm programmer has also written or co-written and co-produced everything here.

He’s only in his early twenties so I suggest we all keep listening. But why should you take my word for it? Listen to Kirk Whalum “This is really good music. He’s only at the beginning though … so stay tuned.”

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EK Productions Producers – Evan Knight, Tim Schad & Steve Schad