Recent Listening: Tarbaby

Orrin Evans, Eric Revis, Nasheet Waits & Guests, Tarbaby: The End of Fear (Posi-tone). Pianist Evans, bassist Revis and drummer Waits comprise a leaderless or cooperative trio who live up to the album’s subtitle. They are not afraid to go wacky, nearly unhinged, in two free pieces, “Heads”—featuring trumpeter Nicholas Payton at his most liberated and chancy—and “Tails,” with the avantTarbaby.jpg garde alto saxophonist Oliver Lake sitting in. Payton and Lake rein in their wildness for the melody choruses in a quintet interpretation of Sam Rivers’ “Unity” but hold back little in their solos and simultaneous improvisation. Tarbaby is not afraid to plumb the romance and lyricism of Fats Waller’s 1932 ballad “Lonesome Me,” with a touching reading of the melody by tenor saxophonist J.D. Allen. In “Brews” Evans is not afraid to skew the good old B-flat blues toward the lamented, half-forgotten pianist Herbie Nichols and a couple of chromatic runs straight out of Teddy Wilson. Nor in his “Jena 6” is he afraid to demonstrate the harmonic individualism that makes him one of the most interesting jazz pianists under 40 (he’s 34).
Enough of the fear gambit. On the Nasheet Waits composition “Hesitation,” Payton covers the range of the trumpet using a spacious tone in all registers and a succession of connected ideas laden with emotion. This is among his best recent work. Payton, Lake, Allen and the rhythm section light up Andrew Hill’s “Tough Love.” Hip-hop aficionados may be able to understand the spoken conversations woven into the opening track, “E-Math,” although I suspect that the chatter was intended not to be understood but to supply atmosphere. It does that, but only the most agile brain will be able to separate the flows of music and voice. Perhaps it’s best to let it just wash over you. At any rate, it lasts only two minutes or so, then the album moves on to the marvelous “Brews” and the rest. Through pieces composed by members of the band plus those by Hill, Waller, Rivers, Paul Motian and—surprisingly—the hardcore punk/reggae group Bad Brains’ “Sailin’ On,” Tarbaby and friends give us an album that seems all but certain to wind up on the year’s 10-best lists.

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  1. says

    Tarbaby with Oliver Lake will be performing at City of Asylum/Pittsburgh’s 7th annual Jazz Poetry Concert, on Saturday, September 9, 7:30 – 9:30. The concert is free. It is held outdoors on a closed public street, Sampsonia Way. In the event of rain, it relocates to the nearby New Hazlett Theater.