Craig Taborn and his multiple motion

Giuseppe Segala By

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AAJ: How did you approach your interest for these more energetic genres when preparing your projects for ECM and what was Manfred Eicher's response in this regard?

CT: I focus on the the sound and on what can work with that sound and how. To a certain extent, I am aware of a different approach to sound when working with Manfred, but for me that is the natural consequence of working collaboratively with him. So, as much as i would work differently with different drummers depending on how they sound, I am aware of Manfred's aesthetic point of view and how it marries with the sound of the project. Ultimately it boils down to a matter of musical sensitivity aimed at understanding how these things may be implemented. In the case of these "more energetic" genres it is a matter of understanding how far and effectively that energy can be translated in a recorded context, and how it might need to be changed to that end.

AAJ: How do tradition and innovation interact in your musical process?

CT: Tradition and innovation are two aspects of the same process. The tradition I come from is one of innovation of established approaches. As a result, you cannot be a traditional Jazz musician without somehow innovating the resources that you inherit. And, by the same token, you cannot really be an innovator if you have nothing upon which to innovate. So I find that both things are essential for my music making.

AAJ: In your more recent albums, especially in the solo record Avenging Angel and the most recent album Daylight Ghosts featuring your quartet, the relationship between written and improvised parts is tight and in continuous evolution. How do you integrate these two aspects?

CT: Composing for improvisers is a process of creating information and structures that invite improvisation. The written material has to leave enough space for what is still unstated or undetermined, so that there is room for improvising. Conversely, it is equally important that improvisation alters the written material. If you have the possibility for improvising to change how the written things are interpreted and you have musicians savvy enough to work with the written material in their improvisations then the two approaches will work well together.

AAJ: As a follow up question: what do improvisation (both solo improvisation and collective improvisation) and composition represent for you?

CT: Well, they are just two aspects of the same process. With improvisation you are composing at the same time as you're performing, so you lose the possibility for revisions. At the same time you gain the possibility of experiencing the space you're performing in, an aspect that can shape the music in a way you cannot know when you are composing in a room you know. So each aspect has its own advantages. In the ultimate process of making music I use whichever one will yield the most interesting result.

AAJ: If you were to define your position in the musical spectrum of today, would you find the "jazz" label to be limiting?

CT: Well it is not so much limiting as possibly incomplete. However, there are so many definitions of "Jazz" that I am usually not concerned with naming things. I consider Jazz a lineage and a process more than a style or specific state of music. So am happy to call what i do Jazz. That aligns with an identity and tradition that is close to me and most accurately represents my approach. But I do not think that it conditions how it sounds. For other people saying Jazz may create the need for it to sound a certain way but that is a different story. So the limitation is not in the term but in a person's own aesthetics. Music is music aside from any labels and I certainly am never thinking whether what i am making at any given moment is Jazz or not. I am more concerned with whether what I play sounds cool.

AAJ: You have had formative collaborations with many prominent masters. Can you tell us about your work with Roscoe Mitchell and to what degree has the AACM school influenced your music?

CT: I have listened to the music of many AACM composers since i was 12 or 13. The liner notes and graphics of some Anthony Braxton recordings really fired up my imagination and changed how I thought about what music could be. Therefore, I count the music made by many of the artists in the AACM among my primary influences. I started working with Roscoe Mitchell 20 years ago and it was one of the most important associations in my life. I learned and continue to learn so much from his example and approach. And this influence has had an effect on everything I have done since, regardless of "genre."

AAJ: You have been also influenced by personalities with whom you have not collaborated. Can you tell us about Cecil Taylor's influence? And Sun Ra's?

CT: Cecil Taylor was an early and constant influence and really changed or expanded what i thought of as possible on the piano. He made me realize how the piano could function in any context. Sun Ra's example across the history of music and in so many contexts (electronic music, composition, improvisation, band leading, mythos, connection to old masters, etc.) is so pervasive that I am not sure why he is not counted alongside Duke Ellington as one the enduring Masters of this music. Consistency and longevity are evidence of the strength of his conception.


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