Craig Taborn Trio – Chants
(ECM 372 4543. CD Review by Chris Parker)
Operating as a trio for eight years, but recording together for the first time on this album, pianist Craig Taborn, bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Gerald Cleaver have staked out ground that will be familiar to anyone who saw the latter pair interpreting the music of Tomasz Stanko at the Polish trumpeter’s recent Barbican concert (reviewed here). Taborn’s description of Morgan – ‘a great “free” bassist but if you give him material there is nobody who honours the compositional fabric more than he does. He is really rigorous about holding onto the essential concept and helping to realise it’ – sums up the group’s approach perfectly: Taborn’s compositions are often relatively complex, tricksy affairs with subtly shifting rhythmic emphases and unusual melodies, but their shape and spirit are carried over into the improvisations to which they give rise with an almost telepathic faithfulness by both Morgan and the ever restless, probing yet confidently emphatic Cleaver, so that the pianist/composer’s ambition ‘not to break the spell by over-defining things … extend[ing] the boundaries you can create in’ is skilfully balanced, in these nine intriguing pieces, against what he calls ‘allowing things to arise out of musical necessity in the whole arc of the story being told’.
If all this discussion of theory makes the music sound rarefied or abstruse, brief exposure to the album’s more vigorous passages will swiftly dispel this notion: this is consistently powerful, dense music, packed with dynamic and textural contrasts, performed by three mutually sensitive individuals who all subscribe to Taborn’s succinctly expressed philosophy: ‘If there’s a question, it’s because you intended there to be a question, and the improvisation is the answer.’