In the intricate tapestry of contemporary jazz, Josh Evans stands out as a luminary trumpeter hailing from the vibrant streets of Hartford, Connecticut. His musical journey has been nothing short of a sonic adventure, characterized by a distinctive fusion of soulful expressions and groundbreaking innovation that has garnered him recognition far beyond his local roots. Evans is not just a musician; he’s a force in today’s jazz landscape, influencing the genre with a blend of tradition and modernity that resonates with audiences worldwide.
Breaking free from the confines of being merely a local artist, Josh Evans has etched his name onto the grand stage of the global jazz scene. His collaborations with prominent figures in the industry are a testament to his prowess, showcasing an ability to seamlessly blend the classic tones of traditional jazz with the dynamic influences of the contemporary era. This unique musical alchemy has earned him a well-deserved reputation, positioning him as a key player in shaping the current trajectory of jazz.
As the anticipation builds for his upcoming performance at Zinc on Tuesday, December 26, we had the opportunity to catch up with Josh Evans. In this exclusive conversation, we delve into the intricacies of his music, trace the arc of his career, and gain insights into what concert-goers can expect from the highly anticipated show. Join us for an intimate exploration of the life and sounds of this accomplished musician, as we step into the world of Josh Evans and the trumpet that breathes life into his musical narratives.
Charles Carlini: Your musical journey has spanned various genres. How did you find your way to jazz and what drew you to the trumpet as your instrument of choice?
Josh Evans: Blame it on my old man – he was a constant music stream in my life. I can still replay entire recordings from my childhood; the imprint of his drumming, especially his rendition of the entire 12-minute drum battle on “Krupa Vs Rich,” is etched in my memory. From Issac Hayes to Sly Stone, Stan Kenton to Art Blakey, and the eclectic mix of Jimi Hendrix, Blood Sweat and Tears, Chicago, Jimmy Smith, Sade, Anita Baker, and many more, my musical education started early.
In my early years, my dad took me to drum corps shows and rehearsals, and during one of those rehearsals, I declared my desire to play the horn responsible for the high notes. So, when I hit 9, he handed me my very first trumpet. And that’s how the journey into the world of high notes and soulful sounds began. Thanks, Dad.
CC: Collaboration has been a significant part of your career, working with artists like Jackie McLean, Benny Golson and Rashied Ali. How have these experiences influenced your own musical style and the direction of your solo projects?
JE: No doubt about it, I’ve had the incredible fortune of sharing the stage with many of my musical heroes. There’s an undeniable magic in the musicians from that era. The most significant lesson I’ve gleaned from them is the importance of staying true to yourself, embracing creativity, and keeping the rhythm alive.
CC: Your latest album, Mansa Mali, has been widely acclaimed for its unique blend of traditional jazz and contemporary elements. Can you share some insights into your creative process and the inspirations behind this particular project?
JE: This album pays homage to the ancient tribes of Mali. Through my readings, I’ve discovered the profound wisdom of the ancient people of Mali, especially the Dogon. Their knowledge remains a profound source of inspiration for me.
CC: As a trumpeter, you bring a distinctive voice to the jazz landscape. How do you approach improvisation, and how do you balance staying true to the roots of jazz while pushing its boundaries?
JE: Back in my middle and high school days, I tried to mirror the styles of legends like Clifford Brown, Charlie Parker, Roy Eldridge, and a young Miles Davis. Looking back, I realized how cheesy that attempt was. These icons made their mark in the 40s and 50s, and here I was, five decades later, still trying to echo their tunes. Jazz undoubtedly has its language, and grasping it is crucial. However, I’m not any of those pioneers; I’m just me, and that’s enough.
Credit goes to Jackie McLean and Rashied Ali for broadening my musical horizons. At 22, I found myself playing three gigs in three states with three vastly different bands. The first night unfolded at Howard University with Billy Taylor, followed by an afternoon gig in Wilmington, Delaware, alongside Rashied Ali. The third and fourth nights brought me to New York, playing with Ralph Peterson. These gigs couldn’t have been more diverse, yet it felt entirely natural and deeply gratifying.
CC: The jazz scene has evolved significantly over the years. How do you see the future of jazz, and what role do you hope to play in shaping its trajectory?
JE: Honestly, I’m not entirely sure, but I’m hopeful it improves. My role? Well, it’s whatever people want it to be. I’m here.
As the eve of his performance at Zinc approaches, we anticipate a night filled with the soulful sounds and dynamic improvisation that define Josh Evans’ music. His ability to navigate the rich traditions of jazz while pushing its boundaries promises a captivating experience for the audience. We look forward to witnessing the culmination of his musical journey on Tuesday, December 26, as he takes the stage to share his passion and talent with the world.