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Orrin Evans “Mother’s Touch” is one of Downbeat’s Editor’s Picks…

Orrin Evans’ Captain Black
Big Band, Mother’s Touch
Mother’s Touch had me, literally, by the fourth note of the opening tune, “In My Soul”: Just four sweet pops from the horn section of this amazing big band pulled me in, dripping with gospel-filled soul. Those notes launch a sweet summertime powerhouse of a record that slips and slides with breathtaking compositions, arrangements, solos and grandeur. Six of the nine pieces on this set were composed by the 38-year-old pianist, and arranged by several members of the Captain Black family, with the entire band being credited with the arrangement on “Mother’s Touch Part I” and “Mother’s Touch Part II,” two terrific, brief interludes. I especially loved “Dita (For Karyn Warren),” a slow, sinewy ballad where Evans takes a beautiful turn stating the melody, then alto saxophonist Todd Bashore melts your heart with his soloing and a lovingly layered arrangement. Among the three tunes not composed by Evans are Donald Edwards’ “Tickle,” a fast-driving blast; and Eric Revis’ “Maestra,” a cool groove. And Wayne Shorter’s “Water Babies,” arranged by trumpeter Tatum Greenblatt, is complex and magical in the hands of this amazing orchestra. Evans’ “Prayer For Columbine” closes this disc with a lush drive from the band, fueled by Anwar Marshall behind the drums, along with gorgeous solos from Conrad Herwig on trombone, Mark Allen on bari sax, Tim Green on alto and Stacy Dillard on tenor. The tune builds to a near-chaotic frenzy with Green and Dillard leading, weaving, bopping and playing with and against each other before resolving into a final, powerful chord from the band. Evans and company have created something beautiful with the Captain Black Big Band. Its latest offering, Mother’s Touch, is extraordinary.