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Tarbaby: The End Of Fear

Dan Bilawsky By

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Virtually every musician deals with fear at one time or another. Perhaps it comes with a first opportunity to perform in an ensemble, or maybe it arrives when first taking flight and leaving the relative comforts of written music, searching for an elusive sound through an improvised medium. Regardless of when it happens, performers have to learn to work through this fear to reach a new level of comfort and artistry in music. The trio known as Tarbaby—pianist Orrin Evans, bassist Eric Revis and drummer Nasheet Waits—seems to have left fear behind a long time ago: individually, these musicians are at the vanguard of modern jazz; collectively, they present a form of music that lives in the here and now, but gives due credit to who and what has come before. The End Of Fear attests to these facts.

While this crew is more than capable of carrying the load by themselves, three guest horn players add new dimensions to Tarbaby's music. Rising tenor saxophone star JD Allen, alto saxophone guru Oliver Lake, and trumpet titan Nicholas Payton are on hand to lend support and talent to much of this music.

A pair of Revis originals opens the program, and "E-Math" is equal parts hip and ominous. Background chatter—in the same vein as that heard on Marvin Gaye's classic "What's Going On"—evolves into paranoid voices as the doom-laden bass and drum team creates some magic behind Payton's stellar muted lines. The followup, "Brews," has a bluesy, Thelonious Monk-ish slant to it, and an inebriated vibe hovers over this song.

Two collectively created miniatures—"Heads" and "Tails"—deal with free play and bombast. Neither track is particularly memorable, despite the caustic saxophone shrieks on the latter, but freedom—not form—seems to be the point of these two pieces. The only other brief episode is a cover of Bad Brains' "Sailin' On," where raging thrash jazz and throbbing, distorted sounds are the order of the day, with Revis the constant upon which everybody relies.

When this group isn't creating stormy sonic serenades, it produces some wondrous music that follows wide arcs of evolution. Evans' "Jena 6" starts with a touch of mysticism, making friends with the avant-garde and building around the pianist's thought-provoking work before moving toward a climax on the shoulders of Waits' loose-yet-powerful drumming. Waits' "Hesitation" is a masterpiece, with Payton delivering the best horn performance on the album. Breathy allure, bent notes, one fantastic growl, and a Terence Blanchard-like sense of drama are all in play here.

Other noteworthy performances include Lake's angular "November '80," a straightforward ballad performance of Fats Waller's "Lonesome Me," and a ghostly "Tough Love," from Andrew Hill's catalog. Tongue-in-cheek toying, musical tantrums and high art are all present in equal parts on the compelling journey that is The End Of Fear.

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).

Title: The End Of Fear | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Posi-Tone Records


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