If you could end the world with the push of a button, would you? Peter Evans might. “It’s weird that some people just automatically respond ‘No’,” he observes. “I don’t understand that actually.” Lacking as simple a mechanism as a button, Evans instead uses his trumpet to assault the populace—and people are starting to take notice. In 2006, his debut solo recording on Evan Parker’s PSI label was released to considerable accolades, and in November of last year his eponymous Peter Evans Quartet was similarly lauded. He has further collaborated with Ned Rothenberg, Fred Frith, Tom Blancarte, Charles Evans—the list goes on.
Surely if the world were to meet a sudden end, it would have to be at the hands of Evans, a source of seemingly inexhaustible energy. Not that he fits the profile of any of the Four Horsemen. His “boy next door” appearance is hardly intimidating, and at only 26, he is still at the very beginning of his career. But, as the saying goes, appearances can be deceiving. “People make very weird comments to me about my concerts, like that they border on performance art,” explains Evans. “They think I’m going to completely lose control or fall off the stage. I guess I look like a pretty normal, buttoned-down guy, so when you see sweat and spit flying out of my face, it’s a little weird. Maybe I would make more money if I thought about how I looked.”
The intense physicality that causes Evans to produce such formidable spittle is backed up by his prodigious technique. He did go through a period of uncertainty with the physical demands of the trumpet—or, as he puts it, “What kind of instrument is it where you play loud for five minutes and you’re tired? That sucks.” But Evans has found a way to overcome those limitations. His recent solo efforts often extend beyond a half an hour, and there’s nothing quiet or minimal about them; audiences are faced with a constant onslaught of sound. “I don’t like silence that much, especially in concerts. I don’t know if you want to psychoanalyze me or something, but I’ve always liked to play the trumpet a lot, and I was always into finding ways to play as much as possible. I like information overload.”
A member of the International Contemporary Ensemble, Alarm Will Sound, and Ensemble21, Evans is also a go-to trumpeter for the new music scene in New York, even if it’s not really where his creative heart lies. “Something I don’t necessarily like about the way that people approach notation in classical music is not that it’s literal, but there’s just a lack of imagination. You play it, then that’s it. In new music ensembles, my favorite part is not playing the concerts—it’s rehearsing. I really like rehearsing crazy pieces. But then you play the concert, and usually there’s just one, and that’s it. To me that’s not very interesting. It seems to make a lot more sense and be more alive if you look at notation as something you have to water, and it grows in unexpected ways.”
Maybe the world is safe after all.