CD Pick of 2010

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TARBABY.  “The End of Fear.”  Posi-Tone Records.  Eric Revis – bass, Orrin Evans – piano, Nasheet Waits – drums, Oliver Lake – alto saxophone, JD Allen – tenor saxophone, Nicholas Payton – trumpet.

I first heard about this record from this piece by Ben Ratliff in the New York Times a couple of months ago.  Then I saw this piece by Doug Ramsey a few weeks later.

Last week when I heard Orrin Evans play a brilliant solo version of Monk’s “Well, You Needn’t” at the Deems Taylor Awards in NYC, with Revis in attendance, I recalled these write-ups and finally bought this album.  Tarbaby is a collective trio consisting of Revis, Evans, and Waits.  The horn players on this record make guest appearances and all three sound fabulous.

Revis is the longtime bass player in the Branford Marsalis Quartet.  On that band’s remarkable, multiform 2006 release, Braggtown, named after a neighborhood in Durham, NC near where Marsalis lives and near the historic African-American church where the album was recorded, Revis contributed the most “out” tune ever recorded by Branford or anybody in the Marsalis family (that I’ve heard), a 14-minute “new music” marvel called “Black Elk Speaks.”

Revis has a huge, old school tone and he errs on the side of playing less notes, not more.  Yet, he’s not conservative at all.  “Black Elk Speaks,” the name coming from the 1932 book about a Sioux medicine man, demonstrates his preferences for history and adventure.  On this Tarbaby record he contributes a tune called “Brews” that makes me think of Andrew Hill in it’s spare tension and groove.

Tarbaby achieves the tenuous, rare blend of tradition and invention that all successful artists in any field seek.  If they could stick together as a full-time working trio for a couple of years, I bet they could rise to the top of the art form, if they aren’t already there.

To connect Tarbaby to the Jazz Loft Project, Waits’ father Freddie Waits was recorded by Gene Smith in loft sessions from September 1963 and April 1964.  There’s one tape where Gene and “Fred,” as the elder Waits introduces himself, meet each other for the first time and they have a conversation about Thelonious Monk and Hall Overton.

-Sam Stephenson

1 Comment

  1. Don Getsug Said,

    December 19, 2010 @ 5:58 pm

    I love the way you break it down and connect it, Sam.
    Also Oliver Lake an old friend, I’ll have to check out Tarbaby.
    Don