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May 20 , 2011

Taborn Takes Wing

Craig Taborn, amongst the most highly-regarded of contemporary improvising pianists, has made mighty contributions to ECM recordings by Roscoe Mitchell, Evan Parker, David Torn and Michael Formanek. Now his first album of unaccompanied piano, Avenging Angel, is released, as he arrives in Europe for solo dates, playing in five countries in five days. He appears at London’s Vortex club on May 25, the Orpheum in Graz, Austria (May 26), Amsterdam’s legendary Bim-Huis (May 27), Berlin’s A-Trane (May 28), and Sunset, Paris (May 29).

Meanwhile the press is responding excitedly to “Avenging Angel”. In UK newspaper The Guardian, John Fordham writes: “Taborn's genius (there's no other word for it) makes a world of whispered, wide-spaced figures, ringing overtones, evaporating echoes and glowering contrapuntal cascades as absorbing as if he were playing bebop's greatest hits. Some pieces slowly evolve as sporadically tapped treble notes ring out against quietly jagged chords, some are keyboard-sweeping torrents in which jazz phrases deviously lurk and wriggle, some foreground high sounds struck so hard that the aim seems to be to purge them of tonality, while others do the opposite and lose themselves in subtleties of texture, echo and harmonics.”

Taborn is the subject of a large feature article by Florian Keller in Switzerland’s Neue Zürcher Zeitung, which concludes with an ovation for the solo album: “The recording speaks, in its multi-voiced and refreshingly stubborn way, of a spontaneous impulse to which Taborn, with his highly complex melodic-harmonic-rhythmic improvising, remains faithful. He is never groping in the dark here. Each piece takes off from a clearly-perceived motive or atmosphere developed through improvising. In this way Taborn sees, to quote Roland Barthes on the ascetic’s path, a whole landscape in a single bean.”

In France, Vincent Bessières is equally enthusiastic in the pages of Jazz News: “This first solo album leads the way with its minimalistic almost ascetic approach where improvisation blends into real-time composing. Without pretense or artifice Taborn confronts the challenge of the solo album with a mental rigour and an awareness of form, with courage, even. He avoids the obvious and any hint of self-indulgence. Far from being an ‘inner journey’ or an opportunity to display virtuosity, his approach liberates spaces in which, by working the details, beginning from a note, a rhythm, the pianist builds a work whose resonance and purity thrills with its commitment and with the strength of its simple beauty.”

To be continued…