Steve Evans | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Steve Evans 

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If you have any doubts about how difficult it is to sing jazz, just compare how many people attempt it with how many do it well. Even among the latter, Steve Evans stands out, for a couple reasons. For one, he approaches the job as a musician, rather than as an actor using melodies; he studied with Kevin Mahogany at Berklee, a school that emphasizes theory as much as technique. For another, he doesn't have the deep baritone pipes that have distinguished most male jazz singers, from Joe Williams and Mark Murphy to Mahogany and Kurt Elling. Evans is a true tenor, and an expressive one at that--his low register starts around Elling's midrange, and up top he can cleanly nail notes more commonly heard in a traditional Irish reading of "Danny Boy." He's also got a terrific ear for onomatopoeia: you hear it in his originals, especially the pop and crackle of his just-over-the-top "Spare Change," which improbably blends John Pizzarelli and Tom Waits. (The song sparks his live sets as well as his impressive self-released debut, Steve Evans.) Evans hasn't put it all together yet: his inexperience leads to stylistic missteps, and he doesn't always separate sentiment from sentimentality (a problem that afflicts plenty of singers twice his age). But most of the pieces are there, and he's got more than enough of them in place to make him worth a listen. Evans performs every Wednesday in May at Pops for Champagne, and at this weekly showcase he sticks to his A material early on. I'd recommend showing up a little later, when he unveils new arrangements and works in progress--which already show significant growth since the disc. Go with a large group, so as to outnumber the loudmouthed Pops regulars whom management refuses to chasten. Wednesday, May 14, 8:30 PM, Pops for Champagne, 2934 N. Sheffield; 773-472-1000.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Todd Winters.

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