The studio-versus-stage argument will forever rage on in music, but it really shouldn’t. Each setting has its advantages and disadvantages. The jazz community has forever favored the stage, as many feel that jazz is meant to be experienced and created in the moment, with artist(s) feeding off the room and creating here-and-gone sounds. That preference is completely understandable, but the studio has its advantages; clarity, balance, and the right working conditions can often only be found there.
The first two releases from pianist Orrin Evans’ Captain Black Big Band both speak in similar fashion, but they’re a study in contrasts between the studio and the stage. Neither one suffers from the disadvantages connected to either setting, but Mother’s Touch certainly benefits from the sonic focus that can only be attained in a studio. The band’s thrilling eponymous debut had the spark that comes with music recorded live, and most of that music was two-dimensional, with focus shifting between soloist and ensemble. Mother’s Touch, in contrast, is multidimensional and far more nuanced in its presentation. Every single voice in every single section speaks with clarity, helping the ear to experience the brilliant juxtapositions that take place.
“Dita” is as good a tune as any to illustrate how the studio serves this music. In a live setting, listeners might be taken by the soloists and the pristine-and-gorgeous horn voicings on this song, only to have the moment ruined by a mediocre sound system, noisy-and-disinterested patrons, clinking silverware, or an overzealous bartender with ice to dole out. Thankfully, no such thing can happen here.
Mother’s Touch presents six Evans originals along with one tune apiece from drummerDonald Edwards (“Tickle”), bassist Eric Revis (“Maestra”), and iconic saxophonist-composerWayne Shorter (“Water Babies”). Evans and company wade in spiritual waters during “In My Soul,” and they make quick shifts in feel and style during “Explain It To Me,” which has a quirky piano introduction, straight sections, swing sections, and passages constructed of three bars of 7/8 and one bar of 4/4. The brief title tracks—”Mother’s Touch Part I” and “Mother’s Touch Part II”—pass quickly and contain solo escapades atop rubato rumblings. The aforementioned “Dita,” however, stays with the listener; Evans and alto saxophonist Todd Bashore shoot straight for the heart on that breathtaking tune.
The second half of the album starts with the raging “Tickle,” which takes flight with saxophone runs and band punctuations. An understated funkiness carries “Maestra” along, “Water Babies” alternately simmers and smokes, and “Prayer For Columbine” surprises with its resolute spirit. Instead of dwelling on the tragedy that took place, Evans focuses on the we-shall-carry-on spirit that often follows horrific events. It’s the perfect way to end this album.
Track Listing: In My Soul; Explain It To Me; Mother’s Touch Part I; Dita; Tickle; Maestra; Water Babies; Mother’s Touch Part II; Prayer For Columbine.
Personnel: Tanya Darby: trumpet; Duane Eubanks: trumpet; Tatum Greenblatt: trumpet; Brian Kilpatrick: trumpet; Fabio Morgera: trumpet; Mark Allen: saxophone; Todd Bashore: saxophone; Dog Dehays: saxophone; Stacy Dillard: saxophone; Tim Green: saxophone; Victor North: saxophone; Marcus Strickland: saxophone; David Gibson: trombone; Conrad Herwig: trombone; Andy Hunter: trombone; Stafford Hunter: trombone; Brent White: trombone; Orrin Evans: piano; Zaccai Curtis: piano (3,8); Luques Curtis: bass; Anwar Marshall: drums; Ralph Peterson: drums (2). Additional arrangements by: Todd Bashore, Todd Marcus, David Gibson, and Gianluca Renzi.