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Tarbaby: Back to Basics

Tar Baby (L-R): Eric Revis, Nasheet Waits, Orrin Evans and Stacy Dillard

I don’t want to hug the tar baby …” With these words, sampled and spliced into a hip-hop montage, Tar Baby’s eponymous debut begins. The voice belongs to the late Tony Snow, press secretary for the Bush White House, who used the term from the Br’er Rabbit folk legend as a metaphor for getting lured into a rhetorical trap. It’s vaguely provocative-some would say racially charged-and yet the members of Tar Baby don’t intend the band name as a political statement. As tenor saxophonist Stacy Dillard puts it, “The name is based on musical experiences and observations.”

Bassist Eric Revis elaborates: “In the story, the tar baby is something you don’t want to attach yourself to. And it seems to me there are elements of jazz that a lot of people don’t want to attach themselves to: the idea of swinging, playing with conviction, with reckless abandon. Everything now tends to be very pensive and ‘interesting.’ An exercise in the math of music. None of us are about that.”

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