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Orrin Evans Leads His Big Band at Iridium

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You've heard of the leadership crisis in America? Orrin Evans is not part of that problem. Running a jazz big band in 2010 involves skill in composing, arranging, conducting and scheduling; it also involves nerve, because a big band these days is naturally a kind of statement, a platform for adventuresome writing or maintaining a tradition. And it takes strength: musical and physical.

Mr. Evans, a pianist from Philadelphia in his mid-30s, is right for the job. Even when he performs in a trio or quartet, it can seem as if more people are needed to absorb his energy. Eighteen people—the size of his Captain Black Big Band at the Iridium Jazz Club on Wednesday night—is about right, though his playing could have rung out over a dozen more.

The band started last October, when it began a series of weekly shows at Chris' Jazz Cafe in Philadelphia, wrapping up in February; it recorded an album, yet to be released, at the end of the run. In the process, it used a mixture of local musicians and a few New Yorkers, including the trombonist Frank Lacy. (Through his various bands, Mr. Evans has introduced New York audiences to more young or overlooked Philadelphian jazz musicians than pretty much anyone else in the last 10 years.)

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