Craig Taborn Trio ‘Chants’ (ECM) 4/5

craig-taborn-trioPianist Craig Taborn, now aged forty-three, has over a lengthy fifteen year period as a leader and longer as a sideman established himself as a musician of some integrity and has worked with an impressive roster of musicians including his current membership of the Tomasz Stanko quartet alongside another trio member, double bassist Thomas Morgan. Both have known one another since they were teenagers and the natural empathy that flows from the trio on this latest adventurous recording is surely born of their long-lasting musical relationships. The final member of the trio is Gerald Cleaver and his collaboration with Taborn goes back some twenty-five years and indeed both debuted on the ECM label as part of the Roscoe Mitchell Note Factory group. Taborn’s pianistic influences take on board some of the more avant-garde aspects of the instrument with Andrew Hill and Cecil Taylor being the most likely candidates. Although the trio has been in existence for some eight years in total, this is actually the first recording by the trio in New York and it is an all original set. If at times the structures are quite complex and dense and not immediately accessible, there is nonetheless a warm intimacy to the album as a whole that bodes well for the future and this is exemplified on the opener ‘Saints’ which a lovely crispness to the drum beats. An irresistibly catchy and repetitive piano vamp on ‘Beat the ground’ builds into a Bach-like groove and this is performed at a fast pace throughout. For an example of fine piano trio interplay, the highly rhythmic pattern of ‘Hot blood’ stands out where piano and drums create a collective riff. Where the trio really excel is on the ballads such as ‘In chant’ and on this gentle number the duet intro then affords bassist Morgan to focus on a solo while Taborn delicately comps. The piece has a slightly menacing edge to it and yet succeeds in being strangely reposing at the same time. Cleaver shines with some nifty brush work on the minimalist number ‘Cracking hearts’. Craig Taborn performed a memorable solo set at London’s Vortex in 2011 and ECM should give serious thought to a solo studio/live recording at some stage. A European and North American tour took place during April and May this year.

Tim Stenhouse