Evans’ Criss Cross debut finds the young pianist working within fairly traditional confines but also showing signs of exceptional creativity. Joined by Rodney Whitaker on bass, Byron Landham on drums, and, at different points Tim Warfield on tenor and John Swana on trumpet, Evans shows himself to be a promising composer and an especially engaging interpreter of standards. His rapport with Warfield is strong on the opening blues, “Dorm Life,” as well as the slower-than-slow “It Had to be You” and the tenor/piano duo reading of “My Shining Hour.” Swana is featured most effectively on a beautiful Evans ballad titled “Mom.” Evans’ other originals are “Yummy,” which bears a superficial resemblance to Monk’s “Eronel,” and the closing title track, which, like “Dorm Life,” features the full quintet.
Three cuts feature Evans with just the trio: a snappy “Autumn Leaves,” a burning “If I Were a Bell,” and a slower-than-usual “Tune Up.” Studio crosstalk preceding “If I Were a Bell” was left on the disc for good measure. Evans asks, “Are you ready, Rodney?” Whitaker answers, “Yeah. What is this?” (He’s not sure what the song will be.) Evans replies, “I don’t know.” Whitaker responds, “Oh, I know that one. What key?” Again, Evans doesn’t know, and Whitaker jokes, “Oh, I know that key.” Evans then launches into an abstract intro, finally sounding the famous melodic cue that announces the end of the song form. Without missing a beat, the rhythm section gets the message and the trio is off and running. It’s a wonderfully spontaneous moment, indicative of the strong musical bonds that Evans has forged with his fellow musicians. – David R. Adler