Orrin Evans’ Captain Black Big Band – “Mother’s Touch”


Orrin Evans - "Mother's Touch"Excellent big band release, and the first studio album by Orrin Evans’ Captain Black Big BandMother’s Touch is boisterous, at times almost mad with enthusiasm.  Between the solos and group effort, there’s plenty of huge sounds and expansive views, but the most amazing quality of this album is when Evans scales things down for quiet interludes on piano.  One would expect that in the aftermath of the big band’s full-on assault, Evans would sound tiny and brittle… and yet he is no less evocative than when the big band slams its foot down on the gas pedal.  That’s the kind of resonance that Evans brings to the table, and it’s why if you see his name on any particular recording, you should pretty much just scoop it up.

Opening track “In My Soul” immediately displays the ensemble’s talent at crafting a strong, simple melody and delivering it with a gentleness that provides a lasting contrast to the big music that often follows.  Marcus Strickland puts the exclamation point on the opening song with a fiery sax solo.  “In My Soul” works a similar vein, contrasting softer tones with bold pronouncements.

The two short pieces “Mother’s Touch Pt. 1” and “Mother’s Touch Pt. 2” serve as more than interludes between the standard sets.  Each behave as thesis statements to the best qualities of this album.  The first installment intertwines blasts of big band ferocity with the gentle sighs of trombone and the glittering resonance of piano… a tonal shadowplay of light and dark.  “Pt. 2,” on the other hand illustrates how powerful this ensemble can truly sound when they dispense with the lessons in contrast and, instead, charge straight ahead, holding nothing back.  Mark Allen’s bari sax leads that charge with a fiery edge and a soulful resonance.

“Dita (for Karyn Warren)” is the sole ballad.  Alto saxophonist Todd Bashoe gracefully rides the song’s buoyant harmonic currents.  “Tickle” parlays furtive melodic squiggles into a quirky ambiance, which drummer Anwar Marshall drives home with a furious persistence.  “Maestra” works a contemporary groove that becomes more diffuse under the weight of solos by Victor North and Fabio Morega on sax and trumpet.

Evans concludes things with the “Prayer for Columbine.”  He opens with a hint of melancholy, then immediately sets to building up to a dramatic crest with a charismatic groove and nice touches of harmony.  On the way up to that crest, there’s a most appealing lull in the action that corresponds to Mark Allen’s baritone sax solo… which gets the climb started all over again.

Nothing but pure enjoyment here.

Your album personnel:  Orrin Evans (piano), Tanya Darby, Duane Eubanks, Tatum Greenblatt, Brian Kilpatrick, Fabio Morgera (trumpets), Mark Allen, Todd Bashore, Doug Dehays, Stacy Dillard, Tim Green, Victor North, Marcus Strickland (saxophones), David Gibson, Conrad Herwig, Andy Hunter, Stafford Hunter, Brent White (trombones), Luques Curtis (bass), Anwar Marshall (drums), and guests:  Zaccai Curtis (piano) and Ralph Peterson (drums).

Released on Posi-Tone Records.

Available at:  eMusic | Amazon CD | Amazon MP3



A portion of this review was originally used in my weekly eMusic Jazz Picks column (now published on Wondering Sound), so here’s some language protecting their rights to the reprinted material as the one to hire me to write about new jazz arrivals to their site…

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My sincere thanks to eMusic for the gig.