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Craig Taborn and his multiple motion

Giuseppe Segala By

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AAJ: It seems that your approach to the piano is strongly characterized by a form of "spontaneous counterpoint." In your work with Tim Berne, for instance, this becomes particularly evident in the connection between your piano and Tom Rainey's drumming. Can you tell us more about this aspect of your playing?

CT: I have always had an interest in counterpoint-or, to be more precisce, in "multiple motion." I like the idea of distinct musical identities operating in the same musical field. This can be melodic, rhythmic or timbral but I like to identify separate elements and work with them. So with Tim Berne's Hard Cell, for instance, I was always interested in exploiting this possibility as much as possible, even though there were only three instruments in that band. I used the electronics, and later the piano, alongside Tom's gift for and awareness of rhythmic complexity, to try to see how far we could go in terms of evolving a multiplicity of musical identities in those improvisations. And this extended very much from the way Tim Berne was composing for that group-which often had 3 or 4 parts in the writing.

AAJ: Gerald Cleaver, Tyshawn Sorey, Dave King and Ches Smith are some of the other prominent drummers with whom you have been playing on a regular basis. What do you seek in a drummer? How do you approach playing with drummers of such diverse styles?

CT: It is essential for me that a drummer is fluent in many approaches but also cognizant of the musical context and able to engage creatively in any environment. One thing that stands out about the drummers you mentioned is the fact that, while they are all fantastic and totally unique drummers, they are also primarily composers and bandleaders. Each of them has his own music and projects. They are not "just sidemen drummers." I think this is essential. They have a creative point of view and apply themselves to music primarily as composers, their choices come from the angle of a composer not a drummer. Dan Weiss and many others would have to be added to that list as well!

AAJ: A fundamental drummer you have played with is Paul Motian. Can you tell us about working with his unique style?

CT: Paul is one of the most influential drummers of all times. His approach, which is informed by the essence of the music-melody and sound-was truly revolutionary. Playing with him was another deep learning experience. At those gigs you find your approach to everything you do altered by the experience, no matter how specific it is. Paul was like that for me.

AAJ: How do you write music that successfully integrates keyboards and guitar, something that you've successfully achieved for instance with Marc Ducret on Tim Berne's Science Friction or with David Torn on his album Prezens?

CT: For those projects i did not write any music-Science Friction is Tim's music and Prezens is group music "composed upon" by David Torn. But to answer your question i think that the integration of electronics and guitar is something that comes from engaging with and understanding sound. Most guitarists are heavily involved with their tone and sound and they make music from that place. So, when playing with guitar players, understanding their sound is more important than the notes that are being played. Both Marc Ducret and David Torn are coming from an advanced sonic space anyway, so when you play with them you're with two sound designers more than two guitarists.

AAJ: What are the genres that trigger your musical curiousity today? What music do you listen to these days?

CT: Truly all genres are inspiring. A list of artists would not be long enough and to pick a few would not accurately characterize my listening. For the sake of offering you something, the last recordings that I purchased—and yes i still buy music! -were by Chrome, George Russell, The Lemon Twigs, Shostakovich, Damon Bell, Jute Gyte, and older Abbey Lincoln.

AAJ: You've studied literature and you have a strong interest for visual arts. To what degree do you draw inspiration from these art-forms?

CT: Completely. I find continual influence from all kinds of creative people and also from science.

AAJ: What are your next projects?

CT: Working on an electronic project, some more solo piano things, and a newer smaller "chamber" project.

Photo credit: Roberto Cifarelli.

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