Peter Evans is a trumpeter, bandleader, and composer navigating the nebulous worlds of jazz and other contemporary experimental musics with aplomb. In his latest venture, a new trio of trumpet, drums and vibraphone play a limitless series of new pieces. This trio will perform at The Jazz Gallery on June 1st; Peter will also perform a solo set that evening. We caught up with him via email to talk about politics, composition, and everything in between.
The Jazz Gallery: You’re opening this concert with a solo set, with trio following. How do you feel those formats interact with each other? Do they change your approach to playing?
Peter Evans: The ensemble and solo playing has been converging a lot more in the last year or so. It’s something I never really expected, but maybe it was inevitable. In my solo music I have been searching for ways to create coherent and interesting structures that can shape the music—structures that are clearly audible as structures but at the same time are flexible and malleable in the moment if need be. There are a bunch of different ways to achieve this, and some paths I have taken from my work as a composer for improvising ensembles: for instance, a 12 tone mode that repeats at the 2-octave point. This is a field of harmony and melody that fixes each pitch in space, allowing me to work with set materials in a very detailed and sometimes very fast way without having to juggle what note goes where. Strict modal improvisation, in short—nothing new about that! But it’s a development for me in the solo music that comes out of my writing for one of my bands (the piece “Intergalactic“).
Conversely, there are ways of developing and organizing material that grew directly out of my solo playing—for instance, juggling 2 or 3 small chunks of music (I think of them as characters or spirits) and bouncing them off one another, developing each character in isolation and in dialogue with the others.
TJG: Do you prefer to play solo, or within a group?
PE: I don’t really think in terms of preference. I just try to answer the musical situation as naturally as I can and let things happen. The best feeling during a solo concert is when I feel like I’m just tending the fire, keeping it going and observing, almost as if I’m an audience member. It’s all a very strange process that I don’t actually understand. That feeling of participation somewhere between active and passive is much easier to achieve when you have other people to bounce off of.
TJG: You’re premiering some new compositions for this trio with Max Jaffe and Joel Ross—can you talk about what direction you feel they’ve taken, or what you were interested in while composing them?
PE: The pieces are still in the works. I change them a little after each rehearsal. It’s a purposefully tricky instrumentation, but I’m into the challenge. In addition to being virtuosos, both Max and Joel are extremely flexible and great listeners. The vibe of the trio so far seems to be that there aren’t really any limits and that we can explore whatever we want, which feels great! I already have some other gigs booked for this group for the rest of the year. I can’t really predict what’s going to happen but I’m very optimistic.