Craig Taborn - Daylight Ghosts
(ECM 2527. CD Review by Tony Dudley-Evans)
Craig Taborn is the kind of artist who thinks carefully about each of his albums, and is clearly concerned that they should reflect his different musical interests. His first ECM album Avenging Angel was a solo piano album, followed by the trio album Chants.
The latest album Daylight Ghosts, his third for ECM, features a quartet with Chris Speed on tenor saxophone and clarinet, Chris Lightcap on double bass, Dave King on drums, and Taborn himself on piano and electronics. The approach is based on integration of the written material and the improvisation, and on drawing on the different personalities of the four musicians. This takes the music some way away from a [theme + solos + theme] approach. In its place is a carefully controlled movement from ambient chamber-like textures, building in intensity through to high-energy rock-inspired collective improvisation. Chris Lightcap and Dave King are key to the way that the music builds up and Taborn complements them with solos that have a strong narrative flow. I found Chris Speed's role on tenor saxophone very interesting; his tone is very gentle and at first I wondered whether his sound was too low in the mix, but it quickly became apparent to me that his role was not that of a dominant front-line horn, but one integrating into the overall sound of the quartet.
The first two tracks, The Shining One and Abandoned Reminder, are characteristic of the album's approach; they begin very gently with a chamber-like sound, but gradually build up into the high energy interaction mentioned above. The title track, Daylight Ghosts, follows a similar approach with Dave King playing a key role. Ancient is similar; it begins with a brilliant bass solo and moves into a strongly rhythmic climax. On other tracks, however, the mood remains restrained throughout, notably on Roscoe Mitchell's Jamaica Farewell, the only track not composed by Taborn, and which features Speed on clarinet.
On a number of tracks Taborn adds very subtle electronic effects to the mix; on The Great Silence, Speed plays clarinet over a hovering ambient electronic pulse. On the final track, Subtle Living Equations, Speed weaves a keening solo on tenor sax over a buzzing electronic background.
This is a thoroughly enjoyable album that provides evidence of Craig Taborn's ability to produce distinctive projects that reflect the contemporary jazz scene in New York.