Craig Taborn provides the crunchy Fender Rhodes that drives Chris Potter’s funky Underground quartet and the intense piano that knits Tim Berne’s left-field jazz into cohesion. From fusion to free jazz, Taborn’s ability to wring new textures and trademark tones out of such intractable keyboards have made him in demand for a host of challenging jazz projects. But recently he has been making solo performance a main focus.
It is 10 years since he played his first unaccompanied date in New York, and it was a while before he knuckled down to mastering the logic of through-improvised solo performance. Now he performs regularly – this gig was the first of a short European tour – and he has just revealed his private world of hidden pathways and fearsome logic on the ECM album Avenging Angel.
At this gig, he ripped off a skewed arpeggio before he fully sat down. A second cluster followed, was developed through a sequence of his own making, and then capped by three sparse notes. Occasionally one would be bashed in emphasis or allowed to resonate while his left hand rumbled quietly in the lower register. There were two-fisted rumbles and more besides before Taborn hit a rhythmic stride and ended what was still only the first number.
Each composition was similarly rich in detail. Some conjoined contrasting themes, others let fly several things at once and a couple investigated a single mood in depth. Taborn has an extraordinary control of volume and tone, and a rich twentieth-century palette. The dense textures of Messiaen mingle with Scriabin’s gentle scribbles, he instils modernism with expressionist thumps and delivers romantic arpeggios over distorted songbook soundalikes. There are jazz inflections and straight-laced ripples, incessant motifs, thumping climaxes that disintegrate into a shimmering mist of gently rising melody and lush, gentle reveries played so quietly that the creaky Vortex chairs became a bucolic backdrop.
After two sets, the pianist peaked with a bustle and rumble finale that pulsed with rhythm while never stating the beat. A strong line swung obliquely, burst into flurries of chords and a blur of notes, all the time slowly getting louder until it finished with a cacophonous shout.
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