Craig Taborn: Junk Magic (2004)
Craig Taborn inhabits the territories in between the gestures we recognize as music. His sources are revealed to be "found sound" and the psychology of loops. As fans of the innovative '70s band Weather Report know, Wayne Shorter and Joe Zawinul’s genius was the sounds they created in between the hooks of their popular music.
Taborn has come a long way since he gained national attention as part of James Carter’s band. He has moved more toward the space inhabited by the avant-garde, trading his acoustic ear for an electronic mind. A regular member of bands led by Roscoe Mitchell, Dave Douglas, and Tim Berne, Taborn adds programmed electronics to his arsenal of sound. This disc, his second for Matthew Shipp’s Blue Series imprint, finds the leader very much at home in the "Nu Jazz" concepts of Shipp, DJ Spooky, and Guillermo E. Brown.
The title track opens this disc looping an electric piano line as if it were a soundtrack to a psycho-killer movie. Mat Maneri’s viola and Aaron Stewart’s saxophone follow pattern repetition before Taborn programs some electronic chatter. The movie's climax (or is this a chase scene?) follows with some heavy acoustic left handedness. All of this winds to a halt as if the electric cord has been inadvertently kicked from the wall.
Taborn has found sympathetic players in the venturesome Maneri and Aaron Stewart, whose resume includes stints with Anthony Braxton, Andrew Hill, Vijay Iyer, and Steve Coleman. Drummer Dave King’s bag of toys and sounds almost feels more at home here than with his very popular trio The Bad Plus.
This quartet mines more Shorter/Zawinul on “Mystero” and the cascading “Bodies At Rest And In Motion.” They touch on M-BASE themes of urban funk and odd time with “Prismatica” and electronica on the minute long “Stalagmite.” The appeal here is Taborn’s compositional approach to incorporating the human (live performance) with the sampled or programmed. He gives us bit of LP pop-and-click on the ambient theme “Shining Through,” reversing the roles and making the sampled seem to be human by way of its fragility.
The disc closes with the eleven-minute track “The Golden Age,” an uneasy energy piece that builds a flow not unlike that of Indian music. Between the lines drawn by Maneri and the electric palette of Taborn, the listener is pulled into a meditative state. Taborn leaves us to consider his motives for creation—and frankly our motives as passive listeners.
One of the best "nu" releases this year.
Track Listing: Junk Magic; Mystero; Shining Through; Prismatica; Bodies At Rest And In Motion; Stalagmite; The Golden Age.
Personnel: Craig Taborn - Piano, Keyboards, Programming; David King - Drums; Mat Maneri - Violas; Aaron Stewart - Tenor Saxophone.