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Orrin Evans and the Captain Black Big Band at Dizzy's Club Coca Cola

Keith Henry Brown By

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Orrin Evans and the Captain Black Big Band
Dizzy's Club Coca Cola
New York, NY
October 6, 2013

Though the band leader/pianist /composer Sun Ra spoke of being part of an "Angel Race" from Saturn, his music, as avant-garde as it could sometimes be, was for the large part, accessible. One of his lifetime heroes was Duke Ellington, not just for his ability to lead a brilliant orchestra, but also for the melodic purity of his compositions. Ra kept the swing in his big band, despite the fact that he believed his art was inherited from the farthest reaches of space. This was apparent in a recent performance of Orrin Evans' Captain Black Big Band at Dizzy's Club Coca Cola. Often tribute bands play the music of a late great artist by either suggesting the past or emulating it. But Orrin Evans and his group of young master musicians embodied the swing, the emotion and the sheer ferociousness of a Sun Ra concert, circa 1974.

The band seemed to a swoop onto the stage rather than enter from stage left; Evans opened with a Duke-like solo piano introduction leading into the familiar Ra staple, "Space Is The Place." Evans began to whisper, then shout the word "space," as the band systematically followed suit. In moments, the music built up to a frenzied crescendo and the audience experienced a lift-off, with Evans' rolling piano playing providing a horizontal thrust. "Space" segued into "Rocket Number Nine," where the band members chanted a resplendent journey to Venus. Here, lead saxophonist Todd Bashore unleashed a transient, surprisingly propulsive solo, powered in part by Nasheet Waits startlingly precise thrashing, suggesting a wild, eventful ride to the heavens. By this point in the evening, everyone in the room became swept up by the experience and Orrin Evans was firmly in place as a gracious guide through Sun Ra's universe. "The Hour Of Parting," a lovely tune made famous by Teddy Wilson and his orchestra, featured an abstract solo by the youthful bassist Luques Curtis that exhibited the uniqueness of a Sun Ra performance into the confines of a well known standard. We returned now to the heavens with Evan's chunky opening to "We Travel The Space Ways"—a composition bearing Ra's signature avant- garde rhythms with a firmly grounded swing.

"Interplanetary Music" brought forth the awesome might of a fully operational Captain Black Big Band, featuring Bashore's big, bold solo as well as a sensitive and respectable turn by fine trombonist David Gibson.

Ending the night for a soft landing was "Demon's Lullaby," a happy, funky stomp where every member of Evan's band got to swing in a more traditional vein. A fitting end to an exceptional night of mind-blowing sounds.

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