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The Trey Anastasio Band: TAB @ The Tab

Doug Collette By

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TAB at the Tab is a well-recorded composite from a February 2010 performance at The Tabernacle in Atlanta. The eye-catchingly designed single CD captures Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio with a tight, efficient combo, performing economical arrangements of a wide array of material from his solo repertoire, as well as the Phish catalog..

Returning to the road in 2008, Anastasio reconvened what's now called "Classic TAB," in a foursome of longtime collaborators. Drummer Russ Lawton, bassist Tony Markellis and keyboardists extraordinaire Ray Pazckowski form the core of the unit that engages in the tough grooving within the ambiguous "Money Love & Change." In demonstrating how deep their chemistry runs, though the sound is superficially similar to Anastasio's solo work following Phish's 2004 "breakup," only intermittently did those lineups evince this taut a bond.

The group takes no time to stretch out, proving itself exceptionally versatile, with the addition of a three piece horn-section. Saxophonist/flautist Russell Remington, trumpeter/singer Jennifer Hartswick, and newcomer/trombonist/vocalist Natalie Cressman add more than a little drama to the improvisations at their highest level of intensity, as on "Sand" while, in the meantime, keeping Anastasio the guitarist focused. He is a much more powerful player within such healthy confines, and here the heat of passion is as obvious as most of his playing has been since the March, 2009 Phish reunion.

The female vocals on "Words to Wanda"—one of the new tunes, along with the stilted "Show of Life," and appearing here, for the first time, in recorded form here except for LivePhish releases—sound a bit precious as they introduce the song, but prove as valuable an addition to the arrangement, as they do on "Drifting," especially when Hartswick and Cressman sing in unison with Anastasio.

The rhythm section again creates a reliable pocket, even at this mid-tempo, allowing Paczkowski to prove that he's as sensitive with a piano as he is rollicking and earthy with electric keyboards. "Goodbye Head" is yet another reliable selection from the TAB repertoire; such reference points more than a little valuable, because the new addition, "Alaska," is an exercise in form and style (an easygoing New Orleans shuffle). Meanwhile "Windora Bug" is simply too tongue-in-cheek for its own good—unless, judging from the mutual glee of performer and audience, you were there.

In contrast, a novelty that works in musical terms is the encore of "Black Dog." A showpiece for Hartswick to prove exactly how strong her voice is, this Led Zeppelin tune also offers the band an opportunity to rock, and rock hard, in a way it hasn't been able to earlier in the set, once more reaffirming what a skilled and durable vehicle the Trey Anastasio Band can be.

Track Listing: Money, Love and Change; Words to Wanda; Alaska; Valentine; Sand; Windora Bug; Drifting; Goodbye Head; Show of Life; Black Dog.

Personnel: Trey Anastasio: lead guitar, vocals: Russ Lawton:drums; Tony Markellis: bass; Ray Paczkowski: keyboards; Russell Remington: tenor saxophone, flute; Jennifer Hartswick trumpet, vocals; Natalie Cressman: trombone, vocals.

Title: TAB @ The Tab | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Rubber Jungle Records

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