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Craig Taborn: Avenging Angel

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He’s served with distinction as a sideman for the likes of James Carter, Chris Potter and David Torn. He’s been in demand for his skills on grand piano, Fender Rhodes, even organ. In 2004 he issued an album under his own name that stands as a defining document of the jazztronica movement. Now Craig Taborn has gone and done something completely surprising: He has recorded a solo album of spontaneously composed works.

It’s easy to imagine how this album might have been made over two days in the studio-Taborn sitting at a piano, waiting for inspiration, plucking a few notes, generating a motif and then going with it. “The Broad Day King” places single-note phrases over an ostinato, with heavy use of sustain and enormous open spaces between thoughts. On “Gift Horse/Over the Water,” the same 10 notes are repeated over two bars, again and again, with Taborn’s right hand tossing chords in different places each time through. Talk about use of space: With “This Voice Says So,” a mere 20 notes are played in the first minute, and the same three-note phrase is repeated six times therein. The album is not all peace and quiet, though. “Glossolalia,” the meeting place of Chopin and Jarrett, finds Taborn wresting spiky three-octave sprints and lower-register thuds out of the keys.

Avenging Angel is an experiment in sound and silence. While brief melodic ideas underpin many of the pieces, equally central to the aesthetic is the actual sound-the reverberations of hammered strings, the oscillations, the durations of sustains. This is delicacy taken to new levels. This music requires the listener to pay close, close attention. Mistake it for background music and you will miss the point altogether.

Originally Published