Captain Black Big Band: Captain Black Big Band (2011)
The man behind the Captain Black Big Band is pianist Orrin Evans. The ensemble's eponymous debut recording is a CD of such style, musicality and instrumental power that it seems only right to ensure that Evans gets the credit upfront. This is straight-ahead, swinging, big band music, recorded at three live performances in New York and Philadelphia in early 2010. The tunes may be familiarEvans has recorded some of them more than oncebut the new arrangements ensure that the band has a contemporary sound that draws from and adapts big band history rather than merely borrowing it unchanged.
Of course, it's not all due to Evans: each of the musicians contributes to the Captain Black sound. While Evans is the bandleader and main composer, he's by no means the dominant instrumental voice on the album, taking only one solo, on Gianluca Renzi's silky "Here's The Captain." There are plenty of other fine soloists within the group, and Evans makes effective use of their talents. "Jena 6," written and arranged by Evans, features two of the best, in Neil Podgurski's metallic, angular piano and Jaleel Shaw's looping and swerving alto work.
Evans' own "Captain Black" is the tune that links most directly to the big bands of the past, with saxophonist Todd Bashore's arrangement giving it a Count Basie feel. "Easy Now," another Evans tune this time arranged by bass clarinetist Todd Marcus, is the most reflective and romantic number. It's loose-limbed and rather melancholy, with Gene Jackson's drumming charting its ebb and flow while baritone saxophonist Mark Allen and trumpeter Tatum Greenblatt deliver strong and atmospheric solos.
Evans has been part of some fascinating jazz ensembles, most notably Tarbaby, whose End Of Fear (Posi-Tone) was one of 2010's finest releases. Captain Black Big Band is an emphatic demonstration of his ability to lead an innovative and vibrant orchestra that can surprise and entertain in equal measure.
Track Listing: Art of War; Here's The Captain; inheritance; Big Jimmy; Captain Black; Easy Now; Jena 6.
Personnel: Orrin Evans: piano; Jim Holton: piano; Neil Podgurski: piano; Luke Brandon: trumpet; Daud El-Bakara: trumpet; Josh Evans: trumpet; Tatum Greenblatt: trumpet; Leon Jordan Jr.: trumpet; Brian Kilpatrick: trumpet; Curtis Taylor: trumpet; Tim Thompson: trumpet; Jack Walrath: trumpet; Walter White: trumpet; Mark Allen: saxophone, bass clarinet; Chelsea Baratz: saxophone; Todd Bashore: saxophone; Ralph Bowen: saxophone; Wade Dean: saxophone; Doug DeHays: saxophone; Wayne Escoffery: saxophone; Tia Fuller: saxophone; Rob Landham: saxophone; Victor North: saxophone; Jaleel Shaw: saxophone; Tim Warfield: saxophone; Darryl Yokley: saxophone; Stafford Hunter: trombone; Frank Lacy: trombone; Joe McDonough: trombone; Ernest Stuart: trombone; Brent White: trombone; Todd Marcus: bass clarinet; Luques Curtis: bass; Anwar Marshall: drums; Mike Boone: bass (1); Mark Przybylowski: bass (3); Gene Jackson: drums (2, 6); Donald Edwards: drums (7).