Craig Taborn: Suggesting Textural Dimension
AAJ: Is there someone there who is really well known for composition?
AAJ: We're talking contemporary classical then.
CT: Yeah. Pulitzer prize winners. Pretty big names but pretty contemporary. They're still relatively young composers.
AAJ: So you had a classical interest.
CT: Yes. At the time I wanted to do a classical composition kind of thing, or just my own compositional thing, but it definitely had that type of information in it. But I just ended up exploring that kind of stuff aside from academia. I met Gerald really quickly, my first week there, trying out for the jazz ensemble so...he actually got me my first gigs.
AAJ: You guys are the same age?
CT: Actually he's a bit older than I am. I'm 32. Just because of the Detroit thing, the first gig I did-Gerald got me on a gig with James Carter and either Jaribu Shahid or Rodney Whittaker on bass-this was at a time when a lot of these people hadn't left Detroit and moved to New York. It was right when James moved to New York, in fact. So there were a lot of those people, of that age group, who were great players. Many of them are in New York now, but were still in Detroit then.
AAJ:: Everybody still has to move to New York, huh?
CT: Not everybody. Not Happy Apple. I don't think you have to actually. It can help or hurt. I know a lot of players who don't, and it's less of an imperative now. A lot of European players are staying put. I just happen to play with a lot of musicians who don't live in New York. To get on the map on a certain sense you do, but less and less so.
AAJ: Yeah, Columbia just picked up the Bad Plus , a Minneapolis band, with Dave, Reid and Ethan Iverson. Speaking of which, they put their first cd out on Fresh Sounds and you're on a new Fresh Sounds piece.
CT: I'm on the new Elvind Opsvik disc. I didn't even know him. It's called Overseas. Jacob Sacks is another pianist from southeast Michigan, a great player who is on the cd. Both Gerald and Tony (Malaby) were involved, so... Eivind just called me and had this idea for me playing organ on there. When I heard who was involved I said, "Sure, great..let's do it." That one came together that way. On Fresh Sounds, I'm also on Gerald's record. Chris Lightcap has two discs on Fresh Sounds as well. I'm not on his.
AAJ: But he's on yours.
CT: He's on the Light made Lighter disc, with Gerald. My trio has also included Reid in the past.
AAJ: I noticed that Jazztimes called Light Made Lighter a "Jazztronica" release in its latest issue on the jazz/electronica crossover thing. A bit of a mistake there, considering it's a great acoustic piano trio disc!
CT: Yeah, I have no idea-whatever. Maybe there's confusion because the record I'm working on now is electronic.
AAJ: Well, that's exciting. That should be killing.
CT: We'll see, but it's completely in progress. I'm writing and getting it together. I don't want to say too much but definitely Gerald's on it, and I wouldn't want to list anybody else until I've approached everybody and confirmed it all.
AAJ: Thirsty Ear is nicely changing up the musical map a bit. Do they kind of tell you what to do or anything?
CT: No, not at all. It's pretty hands off. I think they probably have some ideas about what they think will happen, but it doesn't really translate into specifics. I've never had them tell me anything to do. It's more curatorial than it is conceptual.
AAJ: Yes. They always make a point of saying Shipp is the "curator" of the series.
CT: He's the one who wanted me to do something for Thirsty Ear.
AAJ: But he doesn't at all suggest what that might be?
CT: Not really. In the loosest of terms they sort of have a broad concept of what they're looking for. When they approached me for my record he had the idea that I would maybe do a piano trio. He maybe had the idea of Gerald , but I don't know if he knew I even knew Gerald, who was in my band anyway. It just so happened that Gerald was playing with Matthew Shipp, also in Roscoe Mitchell's band. All of us were in Roscoe's band-called the Note Factory- Gerald, Matt Shipp and myself. There's a record on ECM called Nine to Get Ready , also with Hugh Ragin, William Parker Jaribu Shahid, George Lewis (note: the MacArthur genius grant-winning George Lewis), and Tanni Tabbal (drums). There's a newer one on PI Records, with Vijay Iyer instead of Matt Shipp. But that's where we originally met-there's two pianos in that group.
AAJ: Was that out of Detroit connections?
CT: Roscoe has long had the Sound Ensemble and other things, with a Detroit affiliation including Gerald, Tanni and Jaribu, as well as Spencer Barefield. Roscoe's from Chicago, but his Ensemble tours have had these Detroit personnel in them. Connie and Jaribu and Gerald are all in New York now. Remember, Tanni, Jaribu and myself are James Carter's rhythm section from the first three records. They also were Roscoe's rhythm section. So it was largely through them that Roscoe became aware of my playing.