Clarinetist Evan Christopher is a refreshingly bright light on the international jazz scene. He combines virtuosity and enthusiasm with a deep commitment to exploring the full range of musical possibilities in the traditions of New Orleans Jazz. His sound is individual yet authentic: it is anchored in the musical language created by early Creole clarinetists such as Sidney Bechet, Omer Simeon, and Barney Bigard.
In 1994, Mr. Christopher left his native California for New Orleans, where he quickly joined the local music scene. He appeared with musicians as stylistically diverse as Al Hirt and veterans of Preservation Hall to funk and brass bands, including the Nightcrawlers and Galactic. He left in 1996 to join the Jim Cullum Jazz Band in San Antonio, Texas. For nearly three years, he appeared nightly as their featured clarinetist and appears on all Riverwalk Jazz shows recorded during this period.
Mr. Christopher returned to New Orleans in 2001 as an ambassador for the New Orleans clarinet style. Among the critically acclaimed recordings under his own name are the CDs Delta Bound, which features Dick Hyman (Arbors Jazz 2007), Mr. Christopherʼs Clarinet Road series (STR Digital), and Django à la Créole (Fremeaux & Associates).
The London Times honored Django à la Créole as one of the top 10 jazz CDs of 2008, and the BBC lists it among the top 100 CDs of 2008 in all musical genres.
He has also been featured on many recordings with New Orleans artists, including Big Al Carson, Duke Heitger, Narvin Kimball, Uncle Lionel Battiste, and Tom McDermott.
After the federal levees failed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Mr. Christopher traveled continuously and performed internationally. From January 2006 through March 2007 he lived in Paris at the invitation of the French government. For 12 weeks during that time, he was an artist-in-residence of the City of Paris. During this residency, Mr. Christopher formed his current bands, the JazzTraditions Project and Django à la Créole.
Mr. Christopher began his musical training on clarinet at age 11. In high school, he received the Louis Armstrong National Jazz Award, and he was one of the first graduates of the prestigious Idyllwild Arts Academy. He continued studies at the University of Southern California (USC) and was graduated cum laude (with honors) with a B.A. degree from California State University, Long Beach.
Published research and academic presentations on the New Orleans clarinet style initiated Mr. Christopherʼs pursuit of a masterʼs degree in Musicology at Tulane University. Having returned to New Orleans in 2008, Mr. Christopher frequently performs as a member of Irvin Mayfield’s New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, and he teaches part-time at the University of New Orleans (UNO), where he coaches their New Orleans Music Ensemble.
Photo: Jim McGuire 2008