Debut of Tarbaby at Winter Jazz Fest 2009 NYC


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Summer may be known as festival season, but for the last few years, the NYC Winter Jazzfest has turned a chilly January evening into a one-night whirl of activity. This year's bash boasts a typically terrific program, but there's a twist: Instead of using a single venue, it's claiming three. For 10 hours, (Le) Poisson Rouge, Sullivan Hall, and Kenny's Castaways. With 20 acts on the program, full absorption can be dizzying, but there's a specific thrill in clocking the nonstop parade of ensembles;even if you're there to graze, you'll get a jolt. On the must-see list? New groups from Jeff Watts and Orrin Evans, and Don Byron's Ivey-Divey trio. Correctly plan your zigzag across Bleecker Street, and thrills should abound.

Kenny's Castaway
157 Bleecker Street


Pianist Orrin Evans begins his CD with sampled words of the late White House spokesman Tony Snow, who said, “I don't want to hug the tar baby" in declining to discuss a surveillance program mentioned by the president.

That jarring moment is just for starters. The music that follows proves to be calamitous, intense and oddly beautiful.

The Philly-based Evans, 33, a leading jazz pianist of his generation, seems keen to set his quintet's music in a political context. In that way, he's a throwback to 1960s free players. The group's take of progressive trumpeter Don Cherry's “Awake Nu" recalls an earlier time with a frenetic lovefest, full of intuitive ripostes and discordant slashes.

But Evans is also about making his own mark. His tune “Iz Beatdown Time" generates lots of good heat.

Two Michiganders, J.D. Allen and Stacy Dillard, fill the tenor chairs.

Bassist Eric Revis and drummer Nasheet Waits keep the energy flowing for this challenging session.

--Karl Stark, Philadelphia Inquirer

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