Craig Taborn – Daylight Ghost (ECM)
How does Craig Taborn manage to sound so mysterious while conveying so much visceral impact? He’s been doing it for quite a while, on his own records and in his contributions for artists such as Chris Potter and Roscoe Mitchell. But never has his vision been so fully articulated as it is here.
It’s in the way Taborn uses his signature knotty melodies to great effect on “The Shining One.” It’s in the dark atmospherics of the title track. And it’s in the way pieces seem to degenerate then suddenly regenerate with a burst of energy, as on the multifaceted “Abandoned Reminder.”
Sometimes it’s how he fuses different motifs into a complete statement. “The Great Silence” begins with Chris Speed playing a clarinet figure that recalls the opening to Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring.” Taborn then joins Speed in a duet that slowly evolves into a more contemporary sound with electronic percussion and keyboards entering the picture. The overall effect is a triptych of modernist music modes.
But Taborn’s explorations rarely venture so far out that they become opaque. Instead, repeating phrases and intersecting lines invite closer listening, as when Taborn and Speed, on tenor saxophone, maneuver their way around the Latin-flavored vamp of “New Glory.” Taborn’s judicious use of electronics adds a shadowy texture to several pieces, including a tender reading of Roscoe Mitchell’s “Jamaican Farewell,” the lone cover among these nine tracks. On “Phantom Ratio,” the pulsing electronics and Speed’s droning figures create a contrast that’s both eerie and infectious. Along with Speed, drummer Dave King and bassist Chris Lightcap generate the kind of dynamic interaction required to execute Taborn’s vision.
Among the many pleasures this record offers is the larger statement it makes: that of an already great musician cementing his place in the upper ranks of contemporary pianists and composers.
—John Frederick Moore