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Rifftides recommends Orrin Evans “Mother’s Touch”…

Orrin Evans’ Captain Black Big BandMother’s Touch (Posi-Tone)

O. Evans Mother's TouchRegulars at the uptown New York club Smoke relish not only the musicianship but also the slap-dash camaraderie that pianist Orrin Evans’ big band exhibits during performances. Without the fun and games, the band is just as compelling in this studio recording. Evans’ “In My Soul,” slow and slinky with gospel overtones, sets the high standard that his contingent of bright youngsters and experienced veterans maintains throughout. Evans, tenor saxophonist Marcus Strickland, trombonist Conrad Herwig and trumpeter Tatum Greenblatt are among the excellent soloists. Greenblatt and saxophonist Stacy Dillard shine on Wayne Shorter’s “Water Babies.” Following Evans’ ethereal piano in “Dita,” lead alto saxophonist Todd Bashore solos with neo-Johnny Hodges sensibility. The two short parts of “Mother’s Touch” are built on a seven-note phrase in a head arrangement by this inventive band.


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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.

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Dave Sumner makes Orrin Evans “Mother’s Touch” a pick of the week on eMusic…

Orrin Evans’ Captain Black Big Band, Mother’s Touch: Excellent big band release, and the first studio album by Evans’ Captain Black Big Band. Boisterous, almost mad with enthusiasm at times between the solos and group efforts, 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. This strong album ends on a strong note with “Prayer for Columbine.” Recommended.

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ICON’s Nick Bewsey makes Orrin Evans “Mother’s Touch” one of his picks for the month…

Orrin Evans’ Captain Black Big Band: Mother’s Touch: Posi-tone – Orrin Evans is a true jazz advocate. One of the busiest leaders on the scene with more than 20 solo albums in his discography along with countless sideman appearances, Evans has a second-to-none work ethic in and around New York as well as his hometown of Philadelphia. An industrious musician with an impetuous streak (despite recognizing the economies of scale, he stated that he “can’t stand the trio format” in a July 2012 Village Voice interview), Evans thinks bigger, refusing to see limitations in presenting jazz or performing it. Pairing once again with Posi-Tone Records, Evans’ sophomore studio recording of his Captain Black Big Band is a particularly satisfying album that challenges the status quo. Leading a big band within today’s economic realities seems to defy reason, but Mother’s Touch marks a magnificent return of the CBBB and it scores in every way imaginable.

The album maintains swing at its core, a kind of groove-oriented center that gives it ballast and flow. Evans uses horns as the band’s primary voice, but closer listening reveals that as the primary composer, the pianist takes advantage of a larger canvas to create earthy textures and a spectrum of brassy color. Threading a groove throughout, the recording is reminiscent of the big band recordings of McCoy Tyner—there’s a cinematic thrill in the way that the rhythm section pairs with the horns. Evans, bassist Luques Curtis and drummer Anwar Marshall keep the music pulsating underneath surefire solos by Stacy Dillard and Marcus Strickland on both parts of the title track and again with tenorist Victor North on the gorgeous “Maestra.” First-rate drummer Ralph Peterson guests on “Explain It To Me,” a track with a swinging, churchy feel. Wholly modern and accessible, Mother’s Touch is among Evans’ finest recorded work. He maintains a decisive point of view (the tricky scales on “Prayer For Columbine” give it a meaningful heft) and that consistency makes Evans’ Captain Black Big Band the perfect introduction to his music.


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Midwest Record on “Mother’s Touch”…

ORRIN EVANS’ CAPTAIN BLACK BIG BAND/Mother’s Touch: Right from the opening, this feels like a classic big band set. He might be a piano man, but he’s got the arranger’s chops of instrumentalists from other axes from the last 50 years of greats. Starting out by sort of taking it to church, Evans and his vast collection of players knock it right out of the park. Brimming over and dripping with great talent, it might be impractical to take this on the road these days, but any corporations that want to walk it like they talk it could at least trot them out during festival season with some sponsorship. Utterly great listening that will sorely remind you how they don’t make them like this anymore—-and they should. Hats off to Evans for his wonderful originals and wonderful originality.

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A nice gig review for Orrin Evans Captain Black Big Band….

Orrin Evans’ Captain Black Big Band Smolders at Smoke

Not to disrespect everything that pianist Orrin Evans has done with smaller combos, whether as a bandleader or with tenor sax titan JD Allen, but his greatest  moments so far could well be with his Captain Black Big Band. Over the past couple of years, that mighty group has earned a reputation as arguably the hottest straight-ahead oldschool postbop big band playing original material anywhere in town. So it made sense that their debut album would be a concert recording. But the the album release show for their sophomore release, Mother’s Touch, last night at Smoke uptown, brought into focus a considerably different side of the band, as elegant, sophisticated and in the moment as it is towering and lush.

Their new stuff has as just much in common with the lustrous colors and cinematic swells and ebbs of Maria Schneider’s best work as it does with Ellington at his most boisterous and regally emphatic. As Evans alluded with a wry shrug, running a big band is an enormous task pushed to extremes by its members’ changing itineraries. Finding his lead trumpeter unable to make the gig, Evans snagged John Raymond for the job, and Raymond played like he’d jumped at the chance of a lifetime, soaring and bobbing and weaving and trading bars animatedly with the high-powered sax section at the front of the stage. Likewise, baritone saxophonist Lauren Sevian’s long, lurid, red-neon solo was another of the first set’s many highlights, midway through the subtly Cuban-tinged Gianluca Renzi composition Here’s the Captain. This fourteen-piece edition of the band used that number to close it down, singing warmly casual aah-aahs together as they wound it out on a warmly triumphant note.

The new album’s title track is a two-parter, and it’s essentially a couple of long intros with tantalizingly short solos for piano and tenor sax. On album, the two are separated; in concert, Evans did the logical thing by playing them back-to-back and stretching them out a little, letting his own precise, glimmeringly lyrical phrases linger up to an animated, breathlessly clustering, stairstepping tenor sax solo (the club was pretty packed; from the very back of the bar, it was hard to see who was playing what). The rest of the set was a roller-coaster ride punctuated by express-train bursts from the brass, incisively lyrical passages for just piano, bass and drums, and frequent artful, animated pairings of brass and reeds over some fantastically subtle drumming, especially considering the heft and bulk of this band – was that Anwar Marshall having a great time hitting the clave and all kinds of implications of it? This is what happens when you show up late for the Captain, a powerful reminder why the guy’s so popular.


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NextBop calls Orrin Evans Captain Black Big Band new CD Mother’s Touch “a sizable leap in scope and sound”…

It was last October that I had the chance to catch Orrin Evans and his Captain Black Big Band. The venue was NYC’s famed Dizzy’s Coca Cola Club, and the occasion the birthday centennial of jazz’s greatest space case, Sun Ra. I’d known Evans from his flurry of small group releases over the past few years, particularly his wonderfully adaptive and melodic touch at the piano. Those records, which mostly kept to a straightforward bop sound, in no way prepared me for the Captain Black Big Band of this set. Donned in a dashiki while leading his men to the stage, procession-style, with a conch shell, Evans and his 16-piece band summoned the spirit of the Arkestra with eerie precision, from the spontaneous mid-song exclamations (“Jupiter! Venus! Mars!”) to the freewheeling, slightly off-the-rails execution of the arrangements. I knew from the CBBB’s eponymous debut that the orchestra was versatile, but the show left me with the distinct impression that these guys could do anything.

And now Evans and Captain Black are back with Mother’s Touch, the band’s first studio recording and a sizable leap in scope and sound. Though nothing touches the freewheeling experimentation of those Sun Ra tribute shows, Evans and crew show off their versatility in less obvious ways, utilizing a set of mostly original material that subtly expand on the framework of traditional big band jazz. More than anything, Touch displays the incredible range as a composer and arranger Evans has harnessed, even over the three years since the CBBB’s eponymous debut.

Not that Evans is particularly interested in being the star of the show. As on Captain Black’s debut, his piano mostly offers a support role for his cast of talented soloists including Marcus Strickland, Conrad Herwig and Duane Eubanks. Evans own composition “Dita” is about only place where the pianist really spaces out, laying down a wonderfully pensive interlude that nicely cools the otherwise hard-hitting record. And really it’s those hard-hitting tracks that make Touch worth the price of admission, particularly set highlights including a shapeshifting take on Wayne Shorter’s “Water Babies” and the wonderfully executed mini-suite “Prayer for Columbine.”

Befitting its home on Positone, a label which has always skewed towards a specific brand of retro-hip acoustic bop, Touch mostly avoids the more modern big-band touches of fellow big-band arranger/composers such as Darcy James Argue or Maria Schneider. Where Evans and his Captain Black Band keep things fresh lies in their attention to tenants of old-school big band: tight arrangements, killer soloists and an ever-vigilant ear for melody and swing. Compared to the Sun Ra feature, this is certainly no interstellar adventure in terms of adventurous. But Touch comes nowhere short of dispelling his reputation as one of jazz’s most dexterous and gifted players.

J.D. Swerzenski
Contributing Writer

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AAJ posts another review for Captain Black Big Band “Mother’s Touch”…

New York-based pianist / composer (and two-time Grammy Award nominee) Orrin Evans served notice with his first big-band album for Posi-Tone Records that there was an impressive new ensemble on the scene, a message that is firmly underscored by the second, the cryptically named Mother’s Touch., whose tone and temperament mirror Evans’ contemporary point of view. 

Evans wrote six of the album’s nine numbers, the first of which, the gospel-flavored “In My Soul,” kick-starts the session with righteous vigor underpinning solos to match by Evans and tenor saxophonist Marcus Strickland who switches to soprano for another trenchant statement on Evans’ colorful “Explain It to Me.” The leader steps aside in favor of pianist Zaccai Curtis on “Mother’s Touch,” a seemingly unrelated two-part suite whose total playing time is roughly four minutes. Tenor Stacy Dillard, trombonist David Gibson and trumpeterTatum Greenblatt add solos on Part I, Strickland (tenor) and baritone Mark Allen on Part II. The album’s lone ballad, “Dita (for Karyn Warren),” is a charming showpiece for Evans and altoTodd Bashore. 

Donald Edwards composed and Bashore arranged the lively “Tickle,” which precedes Eric Revis‘ supple “Maestra” and Wayne Shorter‘s frolicsome “Water Babies.” Tenor Victor North and trumpeter Fabio Morgera share solo space on “Maestra,” Dillard and Greenblatt (also the arranger) on “Water Babies.” The spirit is far removed from reverential on Evans’ buoyant finale, “Prayer for Columbine,” whose glossy tone abets elastic solos by Allen, Dillard, trombonistConrad Herwig and alto Tim Green. It’s a pity that Evans doesn’t solo more often, as he is a daring yet good-natured stylist in the manner of McCoy Tyner, Roger Kellaway and one of his mentors,Kenny Barron. He seems, however, content for the most part to play a supporting role and let the ensemble take the lion’s share of the bows and applause. 

Be that as it may, Evans’ purposeful imprint is all over the album, as it was on the band’s inaugural recording some three years ago. He is Captain Black, and the ensemble is an extension of his perceptive musical philosophy and personality.

Track Listing: In My Soul; Explain It to Me; Mother’s Touch Part 1; Dita (for Karyn Warren); Tickle; Maestra; Water Babies; Mother’s Touch Part 2; Prayer for Columbine.

Personnel: Orrin Evans: piano, leader; Tanya Darby: trumpet; Duane Eubanks: trumpet; Tatum Greenblatt: trumpet; Brian Kilpatrick: trumpet; Fabio Morgera: trumpet; Mark Allen, Todd Bashore, Doug Dehays, Stacy Dillard, Tim Green, Victor North, Marcus Strickland: saxophones; David Gibson: trombone; Conrad Herwig: trombone; Andy Hunter: trombone; Stafford Hunter: trombone; Brent White: trombone; Zaccai Curtis: piano (2, 8); Luques Curtis: bass; Anwar Marshall: drums; Ralph Peterson: drums (2).

Record Label: Posi-Tone Records

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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StepTempest features detailed coverage for Orrin Evans “Mother’s Touch”…

Hard to believe it’s been just over 3 years since Posi-Tone Reecords released the self-titled debut CD from the Captain Black Big Band. Culled from 3 live dates, the music was hard-hitting, raucous, even fevered at times but filled with soulful melodies, smart arrangements and great solos.

8 months after that release (11/11), pianist, composer, founder and leader Orrin Evans took the band into Systems Two in Brooklyn to record the follow-up.  Partially crowd-funded through United States Artists (find out more about the organization here), “Mother’s Touch” is even better.  6 of the 9 tracks are Evans’ originals with one each from Eric Revis, Donald Edwards and Wayne Shorter.  6 different arrangers contributed to the program with the 2-part title track (cuts 3 and 8) attributed to the 20-member ensemble made up of 5 trumpets, 7 reeds, 5 trombones and a rhythm section.

The opening track, “In My Soul“, welcomes the listener with warm reeds and brass, a slow blues featuring excellent solos from Evans and tenor saxophonist Marcus Strickland. Gianluca Renzi’s arrangement has the flavor of Julius Hemphill in the lush saxophone melody and Thad Jones in the brass.  Trombonist David Gibson arranged Evans’ piece “Explain It To Me“, a piece that blends a fiery Latin feel with several straight-ahead sections.  Strickland delivers a soaring soprano sax solo while Ralph Peterson drives the band with his usual abandon – it’s the drummer’s only appearance on the CD with the bulk of the tracks driven by Anwar Marshall.  The pianist’s sweet ballad “Dita (for Karyn Warren)” has a lovely melody that Evans delivers in a most deliberate manner and the alto solo from Todd Bashore (who arranged the cut) is short but loaded with soul.  The arrangement calls for clarinets and flute plus a sweeping trumpet counterpoint and low trombones. Edwards’ “Tickle” is a straight-ahead “barn burner” that smokes all the way through its 4:06, especially when tenor saxophonist Stacy Dillard flies atop the amazing bass and drum work. Evans follows with his own energetic solo.  Revis, who is the bassist in the trio Tarbaby as well as long-time member of the Branford Marsalis Quartet, penned “Maestra“for the latter group. Here, the handsome ballad gets a funky makeover with a classy arrangement by Laura Kahle Watts (wife of drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts) featuring strong support from Evans plus fine solos from Victor North (tenor sax) and Fabio Morgera (trumpet). Trumpeter Tatum Greenblatt created the arrangement for Wayne Shorter’s “Water Babies” with its fine “call-and-response” featuring the soprano sax and muted trumpets at the onset.

The program closes with “Prayer for Columbine“, an Orrin Evans composition first recorded with drummer Ralph Peterson on his 2003 “Tests of Time” Criss Cross release (there is also an Evans Quintet live version from 2013 – you can watch it here.) Here, the Todd Marcus arrangement speeds the piece up a bit while creating a sweeping arrangement of the melody line from the trumpets (with saxophone counterpoint and trombone support.)  The tension builds throughout the 4 solos that start with trombonist Conrad Herwig and moves up to baritone saxophonist Mark Allen and then onto a conversation with the alto saxophone of Tim Green and tenor sax of Stacy Dillard. By the climax of the piece, the 2 men are center stage, their sounds converge then take the piece down to its quiet conclusion.

Mother’s Touch” is an excellent recording, from the compositions to the arrangements to the solos.  The sound is stunning, crisp drums and piano stand out as does the way the mix spreads the reeds and brass sections around the spectrum. Orrin Evans makes a positive impression with every project he creates, he questions conformity and makes political statements yet does so with true belief. If you like large ensemble music, you should love the Captain Black Big Band! 

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AAJ’s Dan Bilawsky reviews “Mother’s Touch”…

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.