Orrin Evans and the Captain Black Big Band
Returns with Raucous Live Recording, Presence
Long-running Ensemble, Led by The Bad Plus’
New Pianist, Creates Family Vibe Onstage in
Philadelphia For Third Album
Available September 21 via Smoke Sessions
The influence of the late playwright and educator Donald Evans has always loomed large over the Captain Black Big Band. Pianist and bandleader Orrin Evans named the band for his father’s brand of pipe tobacco, the aroma of which always announced his father’s presence in the house. The big band’s third album, Presence, is a celebration of the warmth and spirit of the elder Evans, but more importantly it’s quite simply a celebration – an approach to not only music but life that Evans inherited directly from his parents.
Presence, due out September 21 via Smoke Sessions Records, features a scaled-down 11-piece version of Evans’ long-running big band, recorded live at a pair of venues in his hometown of Philadelphia: Chris’ Jazz Café (where the band made its debut in late 2008) and South Jazz Parlor. The line-up features a core group of collaborators that the pianist tends to refer to as “a family” or “a village” more than a band. Most of the musicians on this recording have played with Captain Black for years, while many of them have contributed compositions and arrangements to the ensemble’s ever-growing book.
The album’s cover art, drawn by a close friend, depicts the face of Donald Evans gazing upon the band, his enlivening spirit embodied by the diversity and raucous sense of joy that Captain Black always brings to the stage. “There was always a party in my household,” Evans says. “I always looked forward to events at the house, where guests would gather around the piano in our living room. That leads into how I approach the Captain Black Big Band. I try to create that party and to have people in the band that are fun seekers.”
That pervasive sense of familial camaraderie shines through the music on Presence, especially in the band’s smaller, tighter incarnation. The band’s downsizing can be explained in part by practical considerations: it makes an easier fit for their long-running stint on the intimate stage of Smoke Jazz & Supper Club, for one. It’s also been easier to manage as Evans’ schedule has become more crowded since joining The Bad Plus in January.
But the 11-piece band also represents a distillation of the larger ensemble, pared down to a close-knit core of players that know each other very well, can navigate the music with the spontaneity of a small band, and simply enjoy the experience of sharing the stage together.
“I look for something different in the Captain Black Big Band,” Evans says. “I look for the ability and desire to be part of a family. I actually get disappointed sometimes when other people don’t see the appeal of that. You have to be ready and down to be a part of this. That all stems from what I saw growing up in my household.”
“In all the bands I lead, my concept is allowing for the unknown to happen,” Evans concludes. “This is a real, raw and honest representation of what happened on stage on those nights.”
Orrin Evans and the Captain Black Big Band · Presence
Smoke Sessions Records · Release Date: September 21, 2018
For more information on Orrin Evans, please visit: OrrinEvansMusic.com