Addition To “VIPs & Me” Page: Orrin Evans
Earlier this year, I got a chance to get a “First Listen” to an album on NPRmusic.com, which is known for giving listeners a chance to hear new CDs a week prior to their releases. Many of the best, most progressive records I’ve heard in the past nine months were first heard on this site, including Cee-Lo Green’s The Lady Killer, Adele’s 21, Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi’s Rome and Jill Scott’s The Light of the Sun. Once again, I heard another amazing record, Captain Black Big Band. This project, recorded live in New York City and Philadelphia, was created and conducted by jazz pianist Orrin Evans. Evans has been on the cutting edge of jazz for more than 15 years, thanks to the tutelage NEA Jazz Master pianist Kenny Barron. Since the age of 18, Evan’s recorded no less than 11 albums as a leader, proving to be as personal as he is accessible as a musician and songwriter. Captain Black Big Band, which features a number new arrangements of previous compositions, is his most ambitious release to date, and his most satisfying. It’s the most crisp, modern sounding big band I’ve heard, without going too overboard with contemporary instrumentation. On Wednesday, July 13th, donning a beige Kango cap, a red dashki and blue jeans, Evans was a joy to meet; a man truly in love with his work and well liked and respected by his collaborators. Their performance that night at the Zinc Bar in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village felt more like a rehearsal than a professional gig, but only in spirit, certainly not in play. Songs like “Jena 6” and “Stardust” were pristine and oh, so much fun. In October, Evans and the Big Band will begin work on their first studio recording, which promises to be a truly significant occasion.