Orrin Evans’ Captain Black Big Band – Mother’s Touch – Posi-Tone PR8123, 50:11 ****:
(Orrin Evans – piano; Tanya Darby, Duane Eubanks, Tatum Greenblatt, Brian Kilpatrick, Fabio Morgera – trumpets; David Gibson, Conrad Herwig, Andy Hunter, Stafford Hunter, Brent White – trombones; Mark Allen, Todd Bashore, Doug Dehays, Stacy Dillard, Tim Green, Victor North, Marcus Strickland – saxophones; Luques Curtis – bass; Anwar Marshall – drums. With Ralph Peterson, drums on “Explain It to Me” and Zaccai Curtis on piano on “Mother’s Touch”)
Orrin Evans’ rise on the jazz scene has been swift, almost meteoric. With nearly fifteen releases since the mid-90s, Evans has defined the term prolific. Split between the Criss Cross and Posi-Tone labels, Orrin has covered the gamut from piano trios, small group sessions, and lately with his Captain Black Big Band, he has really branched out. For me he hit my radar screen big time in 2010 with Faith in Action, where he split compositions between his own work and those of Bobby Watson. With the issue of the Captain Black big band live issue in 2011, it was evident that the big band bug was irresistible with its infinite possibilities. Having a ready assortment of able East Coast sidemen available makes it economically feasible for labels to finance a big band project while the members can continue with their local projects and gigs. That’s good news for us all.
What I especially dug about Mother’s Touch, Evans’ first studio big band CD for Posi-Tone, is the wide variety of jazz idioms that Orrin tackles. There is simply something for everyone who digs jazz. The common denominator, however, is a very strong sense of swing throughout the nine tracks. “In My Soul” is classic sweet hard bop with gospel overtones. Orrin takes you into the church with some righteous piano blues. The horns have their ensemble say, but Evans has set the stage for a strong opener.
“Explain It to Me” follows with gusto and Ralph Peterson is at the helm on drums. Soaring soprano sax and a Latinesque vibe is prevalent. “Mother’s Touch” is done in two parts, both short and powerful, a bit of a tease leaving hope for more. “Dita” is a favorite of mine, done with sublime beauty and some tender piano lines from Orrin. It’s a gentle meditation, and I can picture it as written for someone special. Some soulful sax here as well.
“Tickle” is a strong chart with a lot packed into four minutes. It shows the take no prisoners power of this big band. Eric Revis’ “Maestra” lets bassist Luques show his funky side. Mid-track finds some sophisticated ensemble work from the horns, while Anwar Marshall’s stick work stands out.
The CD concludes with a potent “Prayer for Columbine.” It has an anthemic theme, and the trombone section is deeply moving. Mother’s Touch is a clear winner, with each track contributing to an overall solid big band experience. I eagerly await the next visit from the Captain Black aggregation.
TrackList: In My Soul, Explain It to Me, Mother’s Touch (Part 1), Dita, Tickle, Maestra, Water Babies, Mother’s Touch (Part 2), Prayer for Columbine
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