Entries tagged with “Craig Taborn”.

My monthly list of recommended CDs, as published in The New York City Jazz Record, April 2014:

Diego Barber & Craig Taborn, Tales (Sunnyside)

Digital Primitives, Lipsomuch (Hopscotch)

Billy Hart Quartet, One Is the Other (ECM)

Tom Rainey, Obbligato (Intakt)

Pete Robbins, Pyramid (Hate Laugh)

Ton Trio II, On and On (Singlespeed)

This review appears in the November 2013 issue of The New York City Jazz Record.

41Yeg+9pkEL._SX300_Mario Pavone
Arc Trio (Playscape)

By David R. Adler

Recorded live at Cornelia Street Café in February 2013, Arc Trio finds veteran bassist Mario Pavone in turbulent waters with Craig Taborn on piano and Gerald Cleaver on drums. These aren’t some random sidemen: Taborn and Cleaver share a bond going back to the Detroit scene of the late ’80s. The freedom and focus they bring to these eight Pavone originals is often astounding.

As it happens, Arc Trio comes just five months after Taborn’s trio debut for ECM, Chants, also featuring Cleaver (with bassist Thomas Morgan). While Chants richly deserves the accolades it has received, Pavone’s outing is just as vital and shouldn’t slip past the radar. It’s fueled by a similar simpatico, though with a grittier aesthetic and compositional logic. Chants boasts that exalted, polished ECM sound; Arc Trio captures a night in a club with a piano that Taborn wouldn’t likely choose otherwise, but bends to his will nonetheless.

In his liner notes, Pavone gets specific about his obsessions and models: Paul Bley’s The Floater, Andrew Hill’s Smokestack, Steve Kuhn’s Three Waves and Keith Jarrett’s Life Between the Exit Signs, along with certain works by Dick Twardzik and Muhal Richard Abrams. One way or another, the rhythmic thrust and texture of all this music gets filtered into Arc Trio, beginning with the frenetic double-stop bass riff and dense piano theme of “Andrew” (first heard on the 2008 quintet release Ancestors, featuring Cleaver).

Pavone’s writing is often spare and concise, with tightly played heads but also room for open blowing over solid tempos. While there aren’t many prescribed chords, the pieces have distinct tonal personalities conjured by the brilliance of the players involved. “Eyto,” “Hotep” and the closing “Dialect” have a jumpy, unpredictable flow while “Poles” and “Alban Berg” usher in a slower swing vibe. Taborn is explosive and virtuosic on “Not Five Kimono” and “Box in Orange,” both also found on previous Pavone outings but given new life. Cleaver is dynamic and funky throughout, though sonically it is Pavone’s snappy bass that gets captured the best.

My monthly list of recommended CDs, as published in The New York City Jazz Record, June 2013:

Secret Keeper (Stephan Crump & Mary Halvorson), Super Eight (Intakt)

Jonathan Finlayson & Sicilian Defense, Moment & The Message (Pi)

Will Martina, Modular Living By Design (ind.)

Sean Moran Small Elephant Band, Tusk (NCM East)

Cécile McLorin Salvant, WomanChild (Mack Avenue)

Craig Taborn Trio, Chants (ECM)

From the May 2012 issue of The New York City Jazz Record:

Pianist Craig Taborn has gigged with bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Gerald Cleaver for a number of years, but it took the trio all this time finally to play New York. The late Saturday set at the Village Vanguard (April 7) moved from deep abstraction and stillness to a kind of beat-based pulsing energy, reflecting Taborn’s far-flung influences from Cecil Taylor to Detroit techno. Large stretches were free, but the precision was unmistakable, a key aesthetic ingredient. Taborn and Morgan, immersed in the densest thickets of improvised sound, would launch suddenly into tight unison passages, some of which seemed to stretch the limits of the possible (Morgan’s contorted fingerings belied the elegance of the ideas themselves). Taborn announced no titles, but some of his repertoire for the week, including “American Landscape,” was from the 2001 trio disc Light Made Lighter, though completely reinvented. Newer pieces had working titles like “Chorales” and “Gal 1.” The leader gave his lyrical, reflective side plenty of room to show itself, yet the rhythms were true puzzlers, marked by hypnotic repetition, aggressive attack and exceedingly subtle shifts over time. Seeds of this approach were sown during Taborn’s period with Tim Berne; there are interesting parallels to be drawn with Vijay Iyer’s Accelerando as well. But the trio’s ECM debut — the follow-up to Taborn’s 2011 solo piano stunner Avenging Angel — will likely defy all comparisons when it’s recorded later this year. (David R. Adler)


It’s always been the case: Kneebody just has to be experienced live. That’s the logic behind the band’s multi-night residencies hosted by Search & Restore. The last of four evenings at Littlefield (April 14) was appropriately festive. Trumpeter Shane Endsley, tenor saxophonist Ben Wendel, keyboardist Adam Benjamin, bassist Kaveh Rastegar and drummer Nate Wood were visibly thrilled to have bassist and singer-songwriter Meshell Ndegeocello as their special guest (previous nights found the band covering music by Tom Zé, Judee Sill and others). But first Kneebody offered a set of its own, playing music from a forthcoming album, including Benjamin’s “Blorp,” which segued into “Unforeseen Influences” from 2010’s You Can Have Your Moment. There’s no exact name for Kneebody’s music — it’s electric jazz, surely, with wall-shaking beats and a phenomenal intricacy typified by “Trite,” with a killer drum intro from Wood, and “Towel Hard,” the blistering final encore. But Ndegeocello’s set brought out another kind of versatility in these players, as they tackled Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” Jimi Hendrix’s “Spanish Castle Magic,” and items from Meshell’s 2011 disc Weather including “Dead End,” the P-Funkish “Rapid Fire” and the noir ballad “Crazy and Wild.” Chris Bruce added scratchy Telecaster, and Meshell wielded Fender bass when she wasn’t singing with a rueful tenderness — a sound as hard to pin down as Kneebody itself. (DA)

My monthly list of recommended CDs, as published in The New York City Jazz Record, July 2011:

Chris Dingman, Waking Dreams (Between Worlds)

Stefon Harris/David Sánchez/Christian Scott, Ninety Miles (Concord Picante)

Pat Metheny, What’s It All About (Nonesuch)

Jochen Rueckert, Somewhere Meeting Nobody (Pirouet)

Craig Taborn, Avenging Angel (ECM)

David Weiss & Point of Departure, Snuck Out (Sunnyside)

This review appears in the March 2011 issue of The New York City Jazz Record:

Gerald Cleaver’s Uncle June
Be It As I See It (Fresh Sound New Talent)

By David R. Adler

It’s scarcely an exaggeration to say that drummer Gerald Cleaver can play everything: from the down-the-middle postbop of Jeremy Pelt to the free-blowing fury of Charles Gayle, to the pellucid soundscapes of Miroslav Vitous and more. Cleaver is an artist belonging to no camp, and this explains much about the stunning individuality of Be It As I See It, his third Fresh Sound release.

“To Love,” with its pumping rock beat and anarchic tonal mishmash (Cleaver shouts the song title out loud at various points), sounds virtually nothing like the remainder of the album — quite a stark choice for an opener. Following this, “Charles Street Sunrise” is already a world away, with a dark, dissonant mood and slow-moving legato tones from Andrew Bishop’s flute and Drew Gress’s arco bass. Oddly, the piece slips into a clear tempo toward the end but then quickly fades out. Later in the program, “Charles Street Quotidian” picks up the thread, as the same motive from the fadeout blossoms into a full piece. The continuity is striking, and Cleaver strengthens this narrative aspect of the music with an extended suite called “Fence & Post,” which stretches to fill nearly half the album.

Craig Taborn’s brilliant acoustic piano flights (“Gremmy,” “22 Minutes”) and alien keyboard and organ murmurings (“The Lights,” “Statues / Umbra”) loom large. So do the individual solo voices and sectional counterpoint of Mat Maneri on viola, Tony Malaby on tenor and soprano and Andrew Bishop on multi-reeds. These are loyal allies of Cleaver’s: Taborn, Maneri and Bishop appeared on the drummer’s 2001 debut Adjust; Bishop returned for Gerald Cleaver’s Detroit in 2008; and Cleaver’s co-led trio projects with Lotte Anker (saxophone) and William Parker (bass) both feature Taborn in the piano chair.

Beyond this strongly unified core of a band, Cleaver tosses in wild-card elements like the noisy guitar of Ryan Macstaller, spicy banjo from Andy Taub (who engineered and mixed the album), and the left-field vocals of Jean Carla Rodea and John Cleaver (the leader’s father, also a drummer). The disparate streams feed into a surging river, a music full of nerve and murky beauty.

This review appears in the February 2011 issue of All About Jazz-New York.

Scott Colley, Empire (CAM Jazz)
By David R. Adler

The title Empire could lead one to think that bassist Scott Colley’s seventh album is an artistic comment on foreign policy. In fact, Empire is a now-vanished town in Kansas where Colley’s great-great-grandfather, Joseph J. Colby, settled in the early 1870s. The town, bypassed by an important new railroad, was abandoned by 1880 and is now “nothing more than crop fields and grass,” according to Amy Bickel, who wrote about Colley and Empire for the Kansas periodical The Hutchinson News.

On some level, then, Empire is an Americana project, and guitarist Bill Frisell proves the ideal partner. (He’s also sideman to Kermit Driscoll, another bassist-bandleader, on Driscoll’s new album Reveille.) Of course, the Frisell sound is identifiable right away — chiming harmonics, bent but lustrous chords and subtle electronic tweaks evoking wide and eerie landscapes — and yet Colley’s writing retains its own strong character. It helps that Colley shuffles his personnel, adding or omitting Frisell, trumpeter Ralph Alessi and pianist Craig Taborn along the way to enhance the session’s variety.

Colley’s most hard-nosed writing comes on the first two tracks, “January” and “The Gettin Place,” where he deploys Frisell and Alessi at bold, jutting angles and sets up the tightest asymmetric grooves. Taborn doesn’t appear until the fourth track, “5:30 am,” his singing lyricism set against the churning, elastic rhythm of drummer Brian Blade. Taborn remains for “Speculation,” a piano trio piece with something of a floating, Tony Williams-Wayne Shorter vibe. It’s rich to hear Frisell and Taborn, on separate tracks, dealing with Colley’s harmonic concepts in analogous ways.

Frisell returns for a duo with Colley, “Tomorrowland,” a dissonant sketch that brilliantly captures the mood of the album cover (an ancient photo of Colby and family outside their Empire, Kansas home). Later, “Gut” finds Alessi in another duo with the leader. Then the full band convenes, for the first and only time, on the slow-swinging “Five-Two.” Frisell, Taborn and Alessi take it out as a trio on “Five-Two.2,” which functions as a spooky coda.

Colley’s own bass role is assertive: He’s a melodic ensemble voice and a frequent soloist. But it’s his instincts about pacing and dynamics that make Empire worth exploring in depth.

This review appears in the November 2010 issue of All About Jazz-New York.

Louis Sclavis/Craig Taborn/Tom Rainey
Eldorado Trio (Clean Feed)

By David R. Adler

Is it possible for a jazz label to release too much good music? If so, Clean Feed has a wonderful problem on its hands. One can barely keep up with the flood of Clean Feed discs by such artists as Kirk Knuffke, Ivo Perelman, Kris Davis, John Hébert, Bernardo Sassetti, Nobuyasu Furuya, Julian Argüelles and Tom Rainey — and that’s just to list some of the recent trio sessions.

With Eldorado Trio, we get an intriguing companion to Rainey’s Pool School, his recording debut as a leader. While the latter featured Rainey in a studio encounter with guitarist Mary Halvorson and tenorist Ingrid Laubrock, Eldorado Trio features the drummer in a co-led concert setting with pianist Craig Taborn and multireedist Louis Sclavis. The sonorities are dark and expansive, although “Up Down Up” and “Possibilities” introduce crisp, almost swinging tempos, and “Let It Drop” opens the set with quick and frenetic staccato interplay. Sclavis limits himself to bass clarinet and soprano saxophone; only on “Lucioles” does he play both, switching to the lower horn for the final snaking legato unison with Taborn. All the pieces are Sclavis originals except for three — “To Steve Lacy,” “Summer Worlds,” the closing “Eldorado” — which are credited to the full trio.

“La Visite,” the longest, slowest and most brooding piece in the set, stands as a kind of anomaly. Its harmony is unambiguous (A minor moving to E minor); Sclavis and Taborn blend beautifully on the mournful theme and Sclavis soon builds to a torrential, almost Coltrane-esque bass clarinet flight. “Lucioles,” far more abstract harmonically, finds Sclavis (on soprano) and Taborn urging each other on during the improv, while Rainey, in the eye of the storm, remains unperturbed. The trio chemistry is distinctive, the music more melodic than Taborn and Rainey’s work with Tim Berne in Hard Cell. There’s free-jazz fire at its heart, but also an elusive element of folk lyricism.

In the November 2010 issue of All About Jazz-New York:

Facing one another on imposing Steinway grand pianos at the Miller Theatre (Oct. 9), Vijay Iyer and Craig Taborn met for an evening billed as “Radically Unfinished: Works for Solo and Duo Piano.” The encounter flowed logically from their work together in Roscoe Mitchell’s Note Factory (they both appear on Far Side, Mitchell’s latest for ECM). But the fact that Iyer’s latest release, Solo, will soon be followed by Taborn’s solo piano debut for ECM made this summit all the more timely and evocative. The atmosphere of high seriousness was hard to miss: Neither player spoke a single word to the audience, and the program notes, rendered by the artists in quasi-academic prose, explained the “process-driven aesthetic” of the music. Yet through their pianos as well as their unpredictable stagecraft, Iyer and Taborn told an inviting story, in dovetailing languages of harsh dissonance, broad sustaining resonance and decay, looping rhythms and dynamic contrasts. Taborn was the more physical performer, his upper-body movements accruing into a kind of funk-informed ballet. In the midst of the third duo number, Iyer nonchalantly left the stage, allowing Taborn to finish the show’s first half. Reversing this, Iyer began the second half alone, and Taborn entered from the wings during Iyer’s second solo piece. Promptly, Taborn began to change the angles and emphases of Iyer’s work in progress, and one got an odd feeling: that in some sense, he’d been there all along. (David R. Adler)


It takes confidence for a Boston-based tenor saxophonist to crack wise about the Yankees during a gig at the Kitano Hotel (Oct. 15). But if you’re Jerry Bergonzi, and you’re settling in for two nights with pianist Bruce Barth, bassist Dave Santoro and drummer Devin Drobka, a little swagger is justified. Bergonzi is among a class of modern horn players who tend to escape critical notice despite their prodigious gifts – a fact that seemed all the more salient during the burning midtempo opener, “Mr. MB” (a tribute to the far more celebrated Michael Brecker). “Obama,” another dedication, slowed the tempo a bit, but the tune’s “Afternoon in Paris” chord changes sustained a bright mood. “Casadiche” had a tricky structure, beginning as a ballad but shifting subtly to swing and back again during the solos, in a manner slightly reminiscent of Monk’s “Brilliant Corners.” Bergonzi and Barth took hard-swinging turns on “Awake” (based on “Moment’s Notice” changes), then pared down to a duo for “Crossing the Naeff” — a dark, contemplative piece with echoes of Dave Liebman and Richie Beirach. Then a nice surprise: drummer and friend Adam Nussbaum sat in on the closing “Table Stakes” (a “Stablemates” spinoff), immediately bringing a jam-session vibe to the room. Nussbaum hit hard but tossed in the sly, suggestive asides of a true veteran. Bergonzi, wanting to reciprocate this energy, turned from the audience and played his solo squarely in Nussbaum’s direction. (DA)