Craig Taborn Trio at the Vortex, London, England
Morgan looked even younger than his 28 years but, in his choices, revealed a wisdom which belied his age. At times he came on like the polar opposite to Cleaver with a spare aesthetic that made each note count for much more than solely its own weight. His expression seemed to suggest a physical connection to his playing: he appeared to almost regurgitate the notes as if they were coming from deep inside him, at the same time as he plunged across the bass clef.
If the lengthy opener was all about manifold tempos and rhythms, then the next composition was a challenge of a different sort. At the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of dynamics, this was an exercise in restraint and audience listening skills, passed with flying colors by the attentive Vortex crowd. Opening with very gentle romantic musings from Taborn, ushered in by Cleaver with the most delicate cymbal strokes with his fingers, and a booming bass pedal point courtesy of Morgan, this introductory ballad teetered on the edge of falling into an abyss of silence. Taborn stroked the strings inside the piano for a ghostly humming rendition of tune. All three were bent intently over their instruments, striving to render the barest sounds imaginable. Taborn plucked inside while simultaneously sparsely fingering the keys, as the pace picked up to become merely funereal, before the culmination of a slow unfolding melancholic melody. After that, almost as a digestif, it was back to the involved realm of the first piece, with more brief but elaborate theme and variations, to close the set.
After the interval, throbbing bass started the second set, which Taborn promised to be all new material. As Morgan very gradually upped the volume, accompanied by Cleaver's flat thudding drums, so the level of complexity also escalated, with a latticework of angular but not meshing lines. Taborn's piano accents added a rhythmic cross current, and the intensity inexorably built, with the pianist swinging at first but then cutting loose with fingers blurring above the keys in a wonderful flailing feature. Sadly, a late start to the show meant that I had to leave for the last train home after this volcanic outpouring, but the full session was recorded by BBC Radio 3 for broadcast in early 2010, so hopefully more of the second set will make it over the airwaves to allow me, and you dear reader, to savor this fine trio once again.