Orrin Evans conducts the Captain Black Big Band at WBGO in Newark, N.J.
Orrin Evans conducts the Captain Black Big Band at WBGO in Newark, N.J. Josh Jackson/WBGO
Captain Black: A new superhero? Yes and no.
"Captain Black was a tobacco my father smoked," pianist Orrin Evans says. "A good friend of mine, drummer Nasheet Waits, his father [drummer Freddie Waits] smoked Captain Black. One day, we were somewhere, and I could smell the tobacco. We just ended up talking about Captain Black. The name stuck. It's really just a tribute to my dad."
- Josh Jackson, producer/host
- Michael Downes, recording engineer
- Michael McGoff, assistant
Making a 21st-century jazz big band operational is a fool's errand. Evans maintains a grassroots approach. He keeps a healthy list of accomplices at the ready; some are key members of his professional family, while others just want an opportunity to play.
Seventeen musicians came to WBGO, and that's less than half of the rotating cast of the Captain Black Big Band. Orrin Evans stands in the conductor position more than he sits at the piano bench.
"I'm the facilitator," Evans says. "Basically, between my wife and I, we're trying to get the gigs. I'm the organizer, putting it all together."
"It's a great band that can go in any direction at any time," says saxophonist Todd Bashore, the band's lead alto player and principal arranger. "It has that small-group mentality within the big band.
"Writing for this band has to keep a certain kind of vibe," Bashore says. "I have piles of charts that just won't work for this band. I try to make it so everybody's part is enjoyable to play. That's something that arranger Billy Strayhorn did. When he brought a chart in, he didn't ask if you liked the chart. He asked, 'Do you like your part?' "
There are plenty of moving parts in this session for The Checkout. Evans, Bashore and trombonist Stafford Hunter each take a solo in "Captain Black." Trumpeter Duane Eubanks and baritone saxophonist Mark Allen are the soloists for "Easy Now." Fabio Morgera is the trumpeter featured in the jazz standard "Stardust." The full band arranges the last tune, "Jena 6," while tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm screams over them.
Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
Personnel: Orrin Evans, composer/conductor/facilitator/piano ["Captain Black" and "Jena 6"]; Todd Bashore, alto sax 1/conductor; Robert Landham, alto sax 2; Joel Frahm, tenor sax 1; Victor North, tenor sax 2; Mark Allen, baritone sax; Stafford Hunter, trombone; David Gibson, trombone; Ernest Stuart, trombone; Andy Hunter, trombone; Duane Eubanks, trumpet; Brian Kilpatrick, trumpet; Fabio Morgera, trumpet; David Weiss, trumpet; Neil Podgursky, piano ["Easy Now" and "Stardust"]; Kenny Davis, bass; John Davis, drums.