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Riding a Bluegrass Note: Jazz Musician Bill Evans Brings 'Soulgrass' to Juniata

(Posted January 14, 2008)

Jazz saxophonist Bill Evans will perform a fusion of jazz, soul and bluegrass at his Jan. 24 concert at 7:30 p.m. in Rosenberger Auditorium.

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Imagine a musical meeting of Miles (Davis) and (Bill) Monroe and the result is a mixture of jazz and bluegrass that saxophonist Bill Evans calls "soulgrass." Evans and a star-filled backing band will perform at Juniata College at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 24 in Rosenberger Auditorium in the Halbritter Center for the Performing Arts.

For tickets and information about the Juniata College Presents series, please call (814) 641-3608. General admission tickets for single performances are $20, except where otherwise noted. Single-show tickets for seniors over age 65 and children age 18 and under are $12. Juniata College students are admitted free with a student ID.

Bill Evans is a celebrated jazz musician, valued both as a leader and sideman on countless recordings. He first came to national attention in the 1980s as a sideman for Miles Davis, playing on such albums as "The Man with the Horn" and "Star People." Since those eye-opening debut albums, Evans has played with artists across the musical spectrum, including Willie Nelson, Bruce Hornsby and Mick Jagger.

The band will be playing selections from Evans' most recent albums, including "Soulgrass" and "The Other Side of Something." Selections from the albums include "Soulgrass," "Home on the Hill," "Weekend Cowboy," "Celtic Junction," "Easy Way Out," "Ode to the Working Man" and "Sweet Tea."

Evans has called his concert gigs the "Soulgrass Tour" in honor of his 2005 album recorded with jazz banjo player Bela Fleck, in which the two musicians combined elements of bluegrass and jazz into an improvisational fusion. "The essence of both kinds of music is their expression," Evans said in an interview in the Wall Street Journal. "They're both improvisations. They're both a form of music where the instrumentalist is creating something fresh and new."

"They're both improvisations. They're both a form of music where the instrumentalist is creating something fresh and new."
Bill Evans, musician

The album received a Grammy Award nomination and Evans has toured periodically with some of the musicians gathered together for the recording session. The band members for the Juniata concert include banjoist Ryan Cavanaugh, bassist Richard Bona, drummer Dave Weckl (who plays with Chick Corea's band), Sam Bush, perhaps the country's pre-eminent mandolin player, and Chris Howes, a fiddler.

"Soul" seems to be an interest for the acclaimed instrumentalist. In 2001, he released an album called "Soul Insider" with vocalist Les McCann, known for the hit "Compared to What." Evans also tours regularly with the "Soulbop" band, formed with co-leader trumpeter Randy Brecker, who is best known for his work with the Brecker Brothers Band.

In addition to "Soulgrass," Evans has released more than a dozen albums as a leader during his recording career, including "Big Fun" (2003). "Touch" (1998), "Escape" (1996), "Petite Blond" (1992) and "The Alternative Man" (1986).

Evans also maintains an active career as a session musician and guest performer. After his stint with Miles Davis, he performed as a member of the Mahavishnu Orchestra with guitarist John McLaughlin. He also has toured with jazz greats Pat Metheny, Herbie Hancock, Lee Ritenour and Dave Grusin.

Evans latest albums, "Soulgrass" and "The Other Side of Something" are available at his Web site: billevanssax.com. Most of Evans's recent albums will be on sale at the concert.


Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.