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Mother's Touch

4.4 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Big band jazz is not the most lucrative style of music: after paying twenty guys for the gig, you re lucky if there s anything left over for you. But some of the most exciting composers in jazz persist in writing and recording large-ensemble pieces. Darcy James Argue is probably the most cutting-edge. Of all the purist, oldschool, blues-based big bands playing original material, pianist Orrin Evans Captain Black Big Band is without a doubt the most powerful and entertaining. For those who don t know his music, Evans is a vigorously cerebral tunesmith and one of this era s most distinctive pianists: think of a young Kenny Barron with more stylistically diverse influences and you re on the right track. Evans initial recording with this band was a roller-coaster ride through lively and often explosive, majestically blues-infused tunes. His new one, Mother s Touch, is arguably even better, and has a broader emotional scope. Evans and this mighty crew play the album release show at Smoke jazz club uptown (Broadway between 105th and 106th) with sets at 7 and 9 PM on April 28. Get there early if you re going (a seat a the bar is your best bet) because this will probably sell out. The album s slow, torchy first track, In My Soul, is amazing. It s the most lavishly orchestrated oldschool soul song without words you ll ever hear. Evans gentle, gospel-infused piano, Marcus Strickland s searching tenor sax solo, and an artfully arranged conversation between groups of horns lead up to a joyously brass-fueled peak. By contrast, Explain It to Me is an enigmatic, pinpoint, Monk-ish latin groove, guest drummer Ralph Peterson doing a good impersonation of a salsa rhythm section on his big kit. The album s title track is a relatively brief two-parter: it s basically an intro, guest pianist Zaccai Curtis spiraling around majestically on the first and then leapfrogging on the second over a dense wall of sound and Anwar Marshall s tumbling drums.The best song on the album and maybe the best single song that s come over the transom here this year is Dita. Throughout its long, impressionistic crescendos, elegant solo voices peeking in through the Gil Evans-like lustre and gracefully acrobatic outro, the pianist has a great time alluding to both the rhythm and the blues. Tickle, written by Donald Edwards, works variations on a series of big, whirling riffs echoed by Stacy Dillard s clustering tenor solo and then some wryly energetic call-and-response among the orchestra. An Eric Revis song, Maestra builds off a trickily rhythmic, circular riff underpinning a casually funky groove and a tersely jaunty Fabio Morgera trumpet solo. The band has a blast with the droll, bubbly bursts of Wayne Shorter s Water Babies, a long trumpet solo giving voice to the most boisterous of the toddlers in the pool. The album ends with the epic Prayer for Columbine, an unexpectedly optimistic, cinematic theme grounded in unease it has the feel of a longscale Quincy Jones soundtrack piece from the mid 60s. Pensive trombone over a similarly brooding vamp eventually gives way to a massive funk groove with a long, vividly animated conversation between aggravated baritone sax and a cooler-headed counterpart on tenor. It s not always clear just who is soloing, but the whole thing is a sweeping, passionate performance from a big crew which also includes trumpeters Tanya Darby, Duane Eubanks, Tatum Greenblatt and Brian Kilpatrick; saxophonists Mark Allen, Doug Dehays, Stacy Dillard, Tim Green and Victor North, trombonists Dave Gibson, Conrad Herwig, Stafford Hunter, Andy Hunter and Brent White, with Luques Curtis on bass. --Lucid Culture

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 drummer Donald Edwards ("Tickle"), bassist Eric Revis ("Maestra"), and iconic saxophonist-composer Wayne 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. --Dan Bilawsky, All About Jazz

Hard to believe it's been just over 3 years since Posi-Tone 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, 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 approximately 5 trumpeters, 7 reed players, 5 trombonists 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; 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. 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! --Richard B. Kamins, Step Tempest

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Product details

  • Audio CD (April 29, 2014)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Posi-Tone Records
  • ASIN: B00JDCOMAK
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #197,059 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
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