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Published: 2013/05/18
by Brian Robbins

Craig Taborn Trio


Everything there is to like about the new Craig Taborn Trio album Chants – is summed up in the opening song “Saints”. Taborn launches into a spiraling statement that initially sounds playful and a little wistful (Vince Guaraldi spoken here) before a sprinkling of minors darkens the mood somewhat. A bit of restlessness begins to move in – but bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Gerald Cleaver usher things along and the sun comes back out. The scenery changes soon after, however: Taborn and Morgan begin to roam, acting and reacting to each other while Cleaver feathers the rhythm throttle, ultimately providing the getaway vehicle as the trio returns to the main theme in the song’s closing minute. That, in a nutshell, is what Chants is all about: there are intricate change-ups and well-honed shifts along the way, but there are also plenty of moments fueled solely by on-the-fly emotions and right-now musical conversations. The resulting mix is a beautifully-recorded feast of improv and formation flying – offered up in a variety of flavors.

“Beat The Ground” is a rhythm workout by all hands – from the early syncopated three-way weave to the no-holds-barred charge that follows. “Silver Ghosts” is lovely for a number of reasons, but Cleaver’s explorations of his toms alone is enough to captivate you. “Cracking Hearts” is angular and multi-chambered (the trio navigate them all deftly) while “Speak The Name” is circular and flowing; the trio’s individual ideas cascade into one – each subtle change reshaping the music without ever losing its groove.

The nearly-13-minute-long “All True Night/Future Perfect” begins with some solo Taborn piano ponderings – so personal and meditative that you feel as if you’re peeking over his shoulder as he writes in a journal. Cleaver and Morgan eventually provide texture and light, but there’s never a definite moment of any one set of hands commanding the wheel. The song demands repeated listenings: focus on Cleaver’s gentle acrobatics – never grandstanding; powerful, yet subtle; challenging and complementing at the same time. Meanwhile, Morgan’s bass dances with Taborn’s piano, in step but never sounding contained or inhibited. The piece’s pace accelerates somewhat as the end approaches; will there be resolution? Yes – yes, there is.

In the years to come, Chants will be remembered as the album that propelled the Craig Taborn Trio into the same category as Haynes, Perez & Patitucci; Guaraldi, Marshall & Granelli; or Jarrett, Peacock & DeJohnette.

Seriously – it’s that good.


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