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Tarbaby: The End Of Fear

Bruce Lindsay By

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Tarbaby: The End Of Fear A band name that some might see as confrontational—although the band denies this—an album title that could be wildly optimistic, a statement of faith or simply ironic; some of the fieriest jazz players on the scene and a scary Hieronymus Bosch-style cover design. What kind of music might emanate from such a combination? Free form, loud, frenetic, aggressive? Yes, but this magnificent, multilayered album offers much more.

While the packaging—name, title, image—might suggest a set of hard-hitting, confrontational music the reality is very different: The End Of Fear is a wonderfully eclectic collection of tunes. Certainly, there are aggressive and ferocious numbers—"Heads," "Tails" and a warp-speed version of Bad Brains' "Sailin' On"—but there is also great beauty: a straight-ahead take on Fats Waller's lovely "Lonesome Me" and a restrained and dream-like trio performance of Paul Motian's "Abacus."

On this album, Tarbaby is pianist Orrin Evans, drummer Nasheet Waits and bassist Eric Revis. Saxophonist Stacy Dillard, a key presence on the eponymous first album (Imani Records, 2009), is absent. Instead, three special guests take charge of the horn parts.

Trumpeter Nicholas Payton is superb, whether adding a raucous, upper register part to the brief and free-blowing "Heads" or a rhythmic, funky line to Sam Rivers' tremendous "Unity." Altoist Oliver Lake leads on his own composition, "November 80," his tight, tense, sound perfectly complemented by Evans' piano. JD Allen—who also played on Tarbaby—appears on only two tunes, but his tenor part on "Lonesome Me" is a master class in straightforward, emotionally engaging musicianship.

The core Tarbaby trio must be one of the strongest and most innovative of such congregations in contemporary jazz: top quality musicians and talented composers. Revis' "Brews," a fractured blues, features some powerful, emphatic playing from all three musicians. By contrast, "Abacus" finds Evans and Revis playing delicately, with Waits dipping in and out of the spaces left by his band mates. Waits' "Hesitation" is the album's darkest tune—Payton's breathy, hesitant, trumpet controls the mood perfectly.

Evans' own writing credit is for "Jena 6," where his piano playing takes center-stage for what might be described as a "ballad with an edge." It's an excellent example of another of the trio's strengths—its ability to shift the mood or atmosphere of a tune simply by a change of emphasis among the players.

So, however enigmatic the trio's choice of name or album title may be, the music on The End Of Fear rings out loud and clear. Tarbaby is one of the most powerful, dynamic and exciting jazz bands around.

Track Listing: E-Math; Brews; Heads; Unity; Jena 6; Sailin' On; Lonesome Me; November '80; Hesitation; Tails; Tough Love; Abacus.

Personnel: Orrin Evans: piano; Eric Revis: bass; Nasheet Waits: drums; JD Allen: tenor saxophone (7, 11); Oliver Lake: alto saxophone (1, 4, 8, 10, 11); Nicholas Payton: trumpet (1, 3, 4, 9, 11).

Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Posi-Tone Records


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