Evan Christopher, Delta Bound (Arbors)

Although his engagements in New Orleans are fewer since the federal flood, clarinetist Evan Christopher’s music has not suffered in the least since August 2005. His latest effort, Delta Bound, showcases his excellent musicianship and sympathetic band, which features New Orleans stalwarts Bill Huntington on bass, rhythmic master Shannon Powell on drums, and ringer Dick Hyman on piano. On every song, Christopher’s tone comes shining through. His clarinet sounds pure and full, not too dark nor too reedy. Besides his stately version of Hoagy Charmichael’s “New Orleans” and the lovely Mercer-Opler waltz “While We Danced at the Mardi Gras,” Christopher and his group perform several originals. The originals have the vibe of New Orleans music, whether it is the melancholy slow notes of “Out of There,” the mid tempo stumble of Christopher’s “Rampart Street Ramble” or the nimble “King of Treme” that seems to be traditional cousin of Donald Harrison Jr.’s “Indian Blues.” Throughout this recording, the tasteful solos and comping of Hyman add depth and color to the tunes, and Powell’s playing, whether almost kissing the cymbals or hitting patterns off the rim of his drums, keep the lightness of the songs and bring out the melodies. Christopher’s originals stand up to any of the New Orleans standards and, like the recent work of Tim Laughlin and Matt Perrine, give hope that New Orleans jazz can gain some new standards to join the old tired warhorses that are in danger of being overplayed.