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Craig Taborn: Rooted

By Published: June 15, 2009
AAJ: You seem to be comfortable at different ends of the musical spectrum—you've played keyboards and electronica with programming, you've played in an acoustic trio, you've played techno. Would you be bored in a steady band, even if it were your own band?

CT: It's hard to say because I've never been able to sit still long enough to know. I suspect I might feel that I was not really able to fully realize myself. I think if it was an improvising group with certain people, it would allow me to maybe not feel bored. Some contexts are defined by their limitations, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I think I might start to chafe under that kind of restraint (laughs). I suspect it might get a little old after a while.

AAJ: What are your up and coming projects? Do you have any ideas germinating that you'd like to develop in the next while?

Craig Taborn CT: Oh, always. Right now, I'm looking at doing a different trio with Gerald and Thomas Morgan and that's different, much more compositional, my compositions—a particular conceptual area that I'm exploring. I'm doing a lot of solo stuff, solo piano integrated with a tiny bit of electronic things. I have a quintet with Chris Speed and trombonist Bin Gerstein which is much more of a chamber ensemble. Yeah, there are several things developing as we speak (laughs) and they're all drastically different. It's hard to relate them but they all involve improvising, obviously, to a great degree. Each group tends to focus on a certain sound, or a certain set of questions that I'm seeking to explore.

AAJ: Most people think that improvisation is the most difficult thing, but for an improviser like yourself do you find composition to be very challenging?

CT: In a certain way, I do. It's hard for me because as an improviser, a sort of native improviser, it's hard to sustain the level of enthusiasm or inspiration around composition. Improvising is so much about the moment, and enthusiasm for the moment; with composition, coming back to it the next day, it's hard for me to find what is sustaining that music beyond its artifice. For me, composition has so much design in it that you can get caught up in that. At the end of the day, it's hard for me to find why it's interesting beyond the fact that it is pretty, and pretty in the sense of the design—it could be very ugly—just that: "Oh, this note goes here." And that is very challenging for me.

I've been into composition for a long time, and doing certain kinds of electronic music has that element too. But improvisation and composition are related in terms of putting sounds together across time; that doesn't change. I think my sensibility for both works in the same way. At the end of the day, if they're recorded, they become the same thing—this music that you can go back and listen to and you can evaluate one the way you evaluate the other.

Selected Discography

Gerald Cleaver/William Parker/Craig Taborn, Farmers by Nature (AUM Fidelity, 2009)
David Binney, Third Occasion (Mythology Records, 2009)
Rob Brown Ensemble, Crown Trunk Root Funk (AUM Fidelity, 2008)
Lotte Anker, Live at the Loft (ILK Music, 2008)
David Torn, Prezens (ECM, 2007)
Chris Potter, Underground (Sunnyside Records, 2006)
Roscoe Mitchell, Turn (Rogue Art, 2005)
Drew Gress, 7 Black Butterflies (Premonition Records, 2004)
Lotte Anker/Craig Taborn/Gerald Cleaver, Triptych (Leo Records, 2005)
Craig Taborn, Junk Music (Thirsty Ear, 2004)
Susie Ibarra, Folklorico (Tzadik, 2004)
Roscoe Mitchell, Song for my Sister (Pi Recordings, 2002)
Craig Taborn Trio, Light Made Lighter (Thirsty Ear, 2001)
Bill Laswell, Dub Chamber (ROIR, 2000)
James Carter, In Carterian Fashion (Atlantic, 1998)
James Carter, Conversin' with the Elders (Atlantic, 1996)
James Carter, The Real Quiet Storm (Atlantic, 1994)

Photo Credits

Top Photo: Peter Gannushkin

Bottom Photo: John Kelman

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Download jazz mp3 “Light Made Lighter” by Craig Taborn Download jazz mp3 “Mystero” by Craig Taborn