Review: Craig Taborn Trio
(The Vortex, December 7th 2009, Review by Peter Horsfall)
‘Word had got out early about pianist Craig Taborn ‘s visit, judging by both the quantity of reserved tables and lack of standing room at the Vortex on Monday night.’ Appearing regularly with an array of artists including saxophonist Tim Berne and Detriot’s electronic music pioneer Carl Craig, the breadth of Taborn’s musical background was evident as he led his own trio though a diverse selection of original material.
Featuring bassist Thomas Morgan (already a veteran of both Steve Coleman and Dave Binney’s groups at the age of 28) and drummer Gerald Cleaver, the trio wove together a musical landscape which contrasted repetitive ostinato-based grooves with sections of free improvisation.
The fact that thirty minutes of continuous music had passed before the trio made even a (fleeting) reference to the kind of instrumental roles we often associate with a traditional piano trio highlights the pluralism of styles and approaches to the music which Taborn has adopted. The ‘free’ sections of the music especially proved fertile ground for the pianist to demonstrate a variety of influences in his own playing, from the blues through to the extended harmony of contemporary classical works.
In contrast, the leader’s groove-based compositions are suggestive of the rhythmic complexity and hypnotic quality of Steve Coleman’s music. However, the similarity ended here as the trio went about the deconstruction of these grooves, arriving at varying degrees of abstraction.
Gerald Cleaver’s playing was a model of this approach, juxtaposing sections of pushy groove playing with extended textural explorations (employing his own idiosyncratic drum-kit setup). It is testament to the ingenuity of the trio that they are able to marry these seemingly disparate parts together, maintaining a high energy throughout the performance.
Well received by the musician-heavy audience, Taborn has managed to develop a trio which adopts a multiplicity of improvisatory approaches without losing a sense of its own distinct character.
The gig will broadcast early next year on BBC Jazz On 3.
Photo credit: Eddy Westveer