Craig Taborn: Suggesting Textural Dimension
AAJ: At any time in Roscoe's band did you do electric keyboards?
CT: No that's all acoustic
AAJ: Well, later in Carter's band you killed it with some of that B-3 stuff.
CT: Oh yeah. I see why you'd ask.
AAJ: I was surprised you've intimated you don't really consider yourself a B-3 player.
CT: Oh no. Not that way. I guess now I can say it because I've played it on records and done tours - by the way I'm playing Hammond on that new Elvind record. But before James I never played it, and I am not one of those organ guys, like Medeski. Like the whole cult or the whole ethos of the organ jazz person-I'm definitely not that and I didn't come up with that. It's sort of an approach to an instrument and I'm not from that and would never claim that. So I don't do bass pedals, but beyond that I addressed a lot of things in terms of trying to figure out how to do that organ thing. Not only is there a tradition of doing that, but a deeper tradition of coming out of the church and having that organ stuff, and that's a completely other universe-there's a lot to grapple with there that I have no experience with.
AAJ: You did some dates with Jef Lee Johnson with the electric band, right? I interviewed him recently-he's an amazing cat.
CT: He's the greatest guitarist in the world.
AAJ: That covers it. So is your first recorded performance with Roscoe or James?
CT: No, definitely with James.
AAJ: When was that Innerzone Orchestra thing released?
CT: That was later, '99, with Carl Craig, the big Detroit techno dude. Another Detroit thing.
AAJ: So you were physically in Detroit until then?
CT: No. I was in New York by then. I moved there in about 1995. I was in the Ann Arbor/Detroit areas in the early 1990s. The Detroit time period gets murky, in terms of giving you the order of things. I played with Marcus Belgrave, Wendell Harrison. During that period it was pretty well divided, as it's been all along between acoustic and electric work. The electric stuff isn't really documented until later. There's a group I had with Gerald ..we played a lot of electric, improvised music in the early 90s. In and around Ann Arbor we were pretty well-known. We were called the Tracey Science Quartet. That started in '89-'90. I played synthesizer, mostly in that group.
AAJ: Did you play Rhodes then, as well? I'd go so far as to say your Rhodes work is groundbreaking.
CT: Oh, thank you. I cut my teeth on Rhodes because I always had one, from age 12 or 13.
AAJ: Do you customize your instrument, the actual keyboard, at all?
CT: Probably what you're hearing are specific things with pedals. You don't often get your own Rhodes you can do things to. My own Rhodes, which I had in Minneapolis, I did stuff to, but not anything you've probably heard, just because they're always somebody else's instruments.
AAJ: I didn't realize you don't take it with you.
CT: Generally, when you're on the road, just like a piano, you don't take your Rhodes with you too much. I take my effects with me. I have several different things, some more vintage and some newer things. I use little things and try to get certain sounds. I try to exploit aspects of the sound of the Rhodes as much as I can to get as much out of them as I can, using a lot of different techniques. I rarely, when I'm playing the Rhodes, just sit down, plug it in and play it as a keyboard, as a piano. I do a lot of things and work with it a lot to coax more out of it.
AAJ: Are there particular pedals you use that you'd like to divulge?
CT: Well, it's not that I'm loath to tell you, but it can change from gig to gig. Things break...or whatever (laughs) and I sort of make do. I don't have that steady of a rig for financial and other reasons. I'm not a big gear guy. I'm definitely very improvisational with it. Things come into my possession and leave and I utilize them as they come. There's just so much you can do with it. Like, Jamie Saft , for example, has a lot more stuff that he actually knows what he's doing with. I kinda don't and make it up as I go and work with it and improvise with it.
AAJ: Some of the sounds are just so cool, or just so right for the tunes, it seems that you must have it worked out beforehand. On that tact, do you prefer and electronic axe over another'synth, organ or Rhodes, for instance?
CT: No. I like all...and even the nature of them being keyboard instruments is because piano is my first. A lot of the synthesized stuff, I really deal with as sound design and sound manipulation so. ..but just as often I'm playing knobs in a certain sense, manipulating the sound as I'm playing the axe, the keys of the Rhodes for example.
AAJ: Like playing the drawbars on the organ.
AAJ: You are carving out a new vocabulary on the Rhodes.
CT: I have an affinity for the Rhodes just because I've had one for so long, like I said.
AAJ: So when you moved to New York in '95 your first gigs were with'
CT: Still a lot with James Carter, because that's when his stuff really kicked off. There's little pick up things with various people, but I worked so much with James at that point it was just crazy. The hype was incredible a that time too and a ton of roadwork with that group.