Putting together a big band in these dicey economic times is a tough proposition at best, but pianist and composer Orin Evans is bucking the odds with this large ensemble that features tight ensemble playing and fine soloing. It is a particularly large band and this allows them to play several distinct textures and work them into the bands overall sound. The ensemble meshes nicely like a finely woven garment and everybody is on the same page throughout the album. Recorded live in New York City and Philadelphia, the band plays with considerable panache, with a crisp brashness to the horns and subtle intricate playing from the rhythm section. Ralph Peterson’s “Act of War” shows the band honoring the big band tradition of the past, while bringing it at warp speed into the present. The arrangement is very effective and frames Rob Landham’s alto saxophone solo quite nicely. “Here’s the Captain” keeps the tempo moving briskly, with Evans in particular taking a rippling piano solo the fits in well with the overall motif of the music. The crowd responds the music heartily, urging the soloists on and providing hearty applause to the musicians. Several Orrin Evan originals conclude the album, and this is a good thing as he has a bold and thoughtful ear and writes some fine tunes including “Jena 6” a protest piece that retains the nature of social commentary while swinging quite nicely. There are precious few big bands left on the jazz scene, so this group is an exciting addition to their ranks. The overall musicianship is excellent and the music remains exciting and compelling throughout. Captain Black Big Band - amazon.com
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Unnatural Ways - We Aliens (Tzadik, 2016) ****
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