Light Made Lighterby Craig Taborn
The second album by Michigan jazz pianist Craig Taborn -- known to most jazz fans as a sideman to James Carter -- is a giant leap past the adept musicianship shown on his DIW debut. Taborn's trio, with drummer extraordinaire Gerald Cleaver and new bassist Chris Lightcap, plays a kind of jazz that's new in a sense, even though it is rooted in time-honored traditions. In Taborn's pianism, Andrew Hill and Randy Weston meet Duke Pearson, Horace Silver, and Hilton Ruiz. There is an elegance of concentration and presentation that exceeds rhythmic and stylistic rigidities. The opener, "Bodies We Came Out Of" (which opens and closes the album, making the entire presentation a kind of suite), echoes the opening bars of "Don't Stop the Carnival" before it moves through Latin phrasings and textures into a modal openness that shifts toward a funkier, dirtier kind of blues. In a blazing time signature, Taborn layers sevenths and ninths over augmented minor chords and plays as rhythmically as Cleaver. Lightcap, for his part, doesn't just keep it on track; he insures the entire thing sings by moving the track toward Cleaver, who juices the rhythm and double-times Taborn. But in his solo, Taborn leaves the melody and undoes the harmony, filling it with legato phrasing and sharp angular arpeggios that equate him playing counterpoint to himself. Taborn's read of "I Cover the Waterfront" is clearly influenced by the man who signed him, Matthew Shipp. Taborn deconstructs the harmony while leaving the melody intact, coursing over it with a series of bop arpeggios and moving the entire tune into overdrive before returning it altered, and simmering from so much trio heat. There is plenty of balladry left in Taborn's playing, as evidenced in "Morning Creatures" and the title track, and his blues are blacker than ever as evidenced by the intensely rhythmic "Whiskey Warm," which pits all three members of the ensemble take turns shifting the meter against the key changes and dive deep into the funk. This is one of the best records in Thirsty Ear's "Blue" series thus far, and, more importantly, it reveals to American audiences what a monster Taborn really is as a pianist.
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- Thirsty Ear
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