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Craig Taborn: Suggesting Textural Dimension

By Published: May 2, 2003

AAJ: Do you ever think about the listener in that equation and what can sort of suck them into the music and then take it back out or whatever.

CT: No, I don't. And it's not that I don't think of the listener, but my role is being true to whatever I'm hearing and bringing that out. And that's the ultimate way to communicate with the listener-through an honest statement, whatever that may be. Otherwise you're not really communicating.

AAJ: Well, that's something about Gerald's record that really stood out for me, that you, Ben Monder and Mat Maneri are so adept at the inside-outside thing that it really makes the whole challenging program, for lack of a better word, 'friendly' to me. It seems intentional, but I guess it's not, on anyone's part.

CT: Speaking for myself, I think I tend to look for..the people I play with and I think of the musicians I want to call to do these projects'that's sort of something everybody has in their playing...and not against other qualities, but it's what sort of recommends them to me. And I think for Gerald it's the same thing. The people that have the 'no borders' playing conception and that have developed that way. So you don't really have that thing where they can't go here'whatever the direction is. Like, we can play free but if there's some kind of harmonic, melodic or rhythmic stuff that comes up, it can go there if it needs to'because ultimately I find that much freer, because there's not someplace I can't go. So if you want to completely jettison that stuff you can do that, if you want to explore it you can do that without thinking, 'This isn't going to work.'

AAJ: So when you're writing for the concept, are there devices in the writing that makes the concept happen, or is it more in the interpretation of what comes off the music paper by the musicians?

CT: I would say finding the right people is half of it. Then, what I try to do, without getting too technical, what I'm interested in almost everything I'm doing now, in anybody's group, I like to have a truly three-dimensional musical space. I like different layers. I like counterpoint and different strata operating at the same time, so I try to look for as deep a texture as is possible in the sense that you really create a musical space that has multidimensional possibilities, musically, so you can have all these things going on at once. You can have noise information, or things that would be purely sound, and you could have melodies and rhythm, and out of time things and arhythmic information, and multi layers of each of those operating. Not that they're all going on at once all the time, but you can work between them-jump to this layer and explore that. So in composition, I try to create these things that suggest that so that when the improvisation starts people can kind of find those things in their improvisation and explore each one. What I find is it generally opens up peoples' approach to sound. When you do that, any sound will fit the texture, to a certain extent, and then it becomes a question of compositional and improvisational ideas being applied there. If somebody feels like they just want to make a sound, say here, it won't be out of place. Or if somebody feels like they want to play a melody that's very consonant and lyrical, that can work, even though somebody is playing sonic information. There's a way I write that tries to get those things going. It's kind of subtle. It's about suggesting that stuff in the writing, really. It's not always that clear, but definitely'you just set up a number of levels of things going on all the time and it gets clearer when people start playing it that they have that going on. And that's really some old Sun Ra stuff-he was doing that in the fifties-composing and setting things up that way. To a large degree I just lifted that from him 'I mean I do it my own way, but there's definitely a big Sun Ra influence there.

AAJ: Well, saying you want to write to accommodate all that movement and possibility is one thing, but how to do it is quite another. It really comes down a lot to the people involved in the execution, I think.

CT: That's the whole point, in a way. If you get that stuff going then you have to find people who are going to think that way and respond to it which for me means finding people who listen a certain way, who have certain awareness of other things and who technically can execute certain things, and who are open to it. It quickly starts to incorporate a bunch of things.

AAJ: It occurs to me that the ingredients to this aesthetic you're trying to achieve would only be found in the New York 'Downtown' scene.

CT: The demographic favors this area but I think, everywhere I go, there's always somebody there. I think the difference is that it's not always supported. There's not a rarefaction of that quality in all these scenes. You have to be a force of one to really make it happen somewhere. Again, if you take the Happy Apple guys . The stuff is amazing, but' they're definitely there for each other, and that's a real test of your creative wherewithal'to make something like that happen in your own environment and create or generate your own scene. There's a lot of creativity everywhere but it's just having that tenacity to stick it out and start developing and saying, 'I am going to make this happen here.' I see it in different towns a lot. When you're in New York, there are so many people trying to do that stuff it's actually easier to find people to play your music. Whereas I know firsthand that living in other places, it's not that easy.

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