Grammy winner spends summer at home

Saxophonist to play Fairfield Theatre Company, take stage at Vibes

Fairfield-evans

Saxophonist Bill Evans will perform at Fairfield Theatre Company June 29 before taking the stage at the Gathering of the Vibes July 25-28 in Bridgeport. (Dino Perrucci photo)

Grammy-winning saxophonist Bill Evans has traveled the world playing with great musicians, becoming a legend himself along the way — and this summer he is back on home turf in the good ol’ USA.

Saturday night, Evans — who lives in upper Westchester — will perform at the Fairfield Theatre Company with his band, Soulgrass, which combines roots, funk and jazz.

“My goal is to reach as many people as possible,” Evans said of his ambitious schedule touring the States while maintaining tour dates for his long-established European fan base.

Evans’s star began to rise in 1980 when, at the age of 22, he played with Miles Davis. He performed on six albums and toured the world several times with the jazz great and his band over a four-year period.

Then, Evans went on to play with other celebrity musicians, including Herbie Hancock, Willie Nelson and Mick Jagger.

In 1990, Evans formed his own band and has been keeping a jam-packed schedule on the road ever since — mostly with his own band. He continues to sit in with other artists, including Umphrey’s McGee, Warren Haynes, The Allman Brothers Band, Gov’t Mule and Tedeschi Trucks Band.

Evans has played a combination of “user-friendly” sounds that music fans can identify with and tunes that are unique.

“I like doing things that are current,” Evans said. “But, I can [also] go up on stage and play something they haven’t heard [before].”

In 2005, Evans formed Soulgrass and began his reinvention in the U.S.

He sees the combination of genres that he embodies to be just the right blend for an American audience.

“I play jazz, roots and funk music that people here love,” Evans said.

None of it is new to Evans and his band.

“It’s the music I’ve been doing in other countries for years,” he said.

So, after traveling throughout Europe, Japan and the Far East — attaining popularity and star power on the road — Evans is navigating the highways and byways of his native country to extend his music across America.

“It’s time for me to come home,” Evans said.

He is finding a joy on the road.

“This is fun,” Evans said. “It’s what I’m doing music for.”

Evans will also perform at The Gathering of the Vibes at Seaside Park in Bridgeport July 25-28.

“It’s the first time the Vibes has hired someone solo to sit in with all the main stage bands,” Evans said.

There is a reason for that honor, according to Ken Hays, owner of Gathering of the Vibes.

“Bill Evans’s work on the saxophone spans both genre and generation,” Hays said. “He’s someone who can literally jump into any song during any set and lay down his own groove.”

Which is a highly compatible skill set for the annual music, arts and camping festival, now in its 18th year.

“That’s the essence of a ‘jam band artist’ and the driving thought behind adding him as an ‘artist at large’ at this year’s Gathering of the Vibes,” Hays said.

Home fires burning

Meanwhile, Evans is looking forward to connecting with the audience this Saturday night at the smaller stage.

“It’s a chance for people to see me in an intimate venue,” Evans said.

Evans will play saxophone and perform vocals; Josh Dion will play drums and perform lead vocals; Dave Anderson will play bass; Ryan Cavanaugh will perform on the banjo; Mitch Stein will play guitar; and Cyrus Madden will be on organ and keys.

Evans has recorded 18 solo CDs, including his latest, Dragonfly, and received two Grammy nominations for his solo releases, one for Soul Insider (2002) and the other for Soulgrass (2006).

Soulgrass performs at the Fairfield Theatre Company on StageOne this Saturday, June 29, at 7:45 p.m. Doors open at 7. Tickets cost $32; members save $3 per ticket. For more information, call the box office at 203-259-1036 or go to fairfieldtheatre.org. The theater is at 70 Sanford Street, next to the Fairfield train station.

To read more about Evans, go to billevanssax.com.

For more information about Gathering of the Vibes, visit govibes.com.

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