Evan Christopher combines virtuosity, immaculate taste, and enthusiasm with a commitment to exploring the full range of possibilities in the New Orleans clarinet tradition. His highly personal brand of “contemporary, early jazz” strives to extend the legacies of early Creole clarinetists such as Sidney Bechet, Omer Simeon, and Barney Bigard. Critics remarking on Christopher’s dynamic expressiveness have coined his style “close-encounter music” (NEW YORK TIMES) and have called his respect for the music traditions of New Orleans, “a triumph, joining the present seamlessly to a glorious past.” (THE OBSERVER, UK).
Christopher’s journey on Clarinet Road began in 1994, when he left his native California to join the New Orleans music community. Diverse freelance work included gigs with musicians such as Al Hirt and veterans of Preservation Hall to funk and brass bands including the Nightcrawlers and Galactic. But in 1996, he left for San Antonio, Texas to appear nightly for nearly three years with the Jim Cullum Jazz Band and record several of their radio programs, Riverwalk: Live from the Landing.
When he returned to New Orleans in 2001, his published research on the New Orleans clarinet style initiated pursuit of a Master’s degree in Musicology at Tulane University. He began touring internationally and producing his “Clarinet Road” series of CDs (STR Digital). In August 2005, federal levees failed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and flooded the city. Christopher left again, this time to Paris at the invitation of the French Embassy’s Cultural Services division, where he formed his group, Django à la Créole. This Europe-based quartet fuses Gypsy Swing with Latin-tinged grooves of New Orleans and beyond and has distinguished itself with an acoustic intimacy paired with driving swing. The charm of the group recently prompted Clive Davis (THE SUNDAY TIMES UK) to ask,“Is there a more graceful band at work at the moment?” Albums for Lejazzetal, in partnership with Frémeaux & Associés—Django à la Créole (2007), Finesse (2010), and LIVE (2014)—have earned the group critical attention and a worldwide reputation for its elegant character.
As a composer, Evan Christopher’s original songs are the high point of acclaimed recordings including Delta Bound (Arbors, 2007) featuring pianist Dick Hyman, The Remembering Song (Arbors, 2010) featuring guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, and his clarinet feature on the Grammy-winning New Orleans Jazz Orchestra’s Book One (2012). In July 2010, he had the honor to debut his Treat It Gentle Suite with the Minnesota Orchestra, which was the first concerto written for clarinet and jazz band in the New Orleans style.
Christopher began his musical training on clarinet at age 11. In high school, he received the Louis Armstrong National Jazz Award and was one of the first graduates of the prestigious Idyllwild Arts Academy. He continued studies at the University of Southern California and graduated cum laude with a music degree from California State University, Long Beach. Since 2008, having returned again to New Orleans, Christopher actively advocates for the cultural workforce and music education. A brief teaching stint at the University of New Orleans saw the creation of a New Orleans music ensemble that performed with guest mentors such as Lucien Barbarin and Marcus Roberts.
Evan Christopher frequently appears as a guest with forward-looking groups, such as the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra and the jazz composer guild, NOLA ArtHouse Music. He is also featured on New Orleans-based artists’ recordings in various genres as a featured soloist. Music workshops and educational and community outreach frequently complement his performances, and he writes occasional columns about the music scene for NolaVie.com, an online journal about New Orleans culture.