In addition to his copious sideman work (including multiple recordings with James Carter, Roscoe Mitchell, Tim Berne, Michael Formanek, and Chris Potter, among many others) pianist/keyboardist Craig Taborn has found time to record intermittently as a leader since 1994's Craig Taborn Trio (IDW). This is his third ECM album, following the solo Avenging Angel (2011) and the trio date Chants (2012).
The music Taborn composed for Daylight Ghosts' quartet emphasizes group improvisation over sharply defined soloist/accompanist roles, facilitated by Taborn's long relationships with these players. Saxophonist/clarinetist Chris Speed and bassist Chris Lightcap are regulars on the New York scene. Drummer Dave King (one third of the experimental jazz trio The Bad Plus) is a fellow Minnesota native, a musical associate since their teen years.
"The Shining One" opens the set with an insistent ostinato figure, with Taborn taking a solo over the top. It's a great introduction to his piano playing, and one of the few places he takes a clear solo role. "Abandoned Reminder" begins with slow music for piano and Speed's tenor saxophone before moving into a free group conversation, finally ending with another ostinato. The title tune is the original ballad of the set, albeit a somewhat abstract, modern oneno Great American Songbook echoes here. Roscoe Mitchell's "Jamaican Farewell" is also a reflective ballad (featuring Speed's clarinet). Taborn first played it on Mitchell's Nine To Get Ready (ECM, 1999).
"The Great Silence" opens with clarinet accompanied by sparse piano. Taborn then adds electronic keyboard, creating a dreamlike atmosphere. He's known for his electronic keyboard playing, even frequently covering the bass parts in an ensemble. But here it's a light coloring to what is essentially an acoustic band. Only the closer "Phantom Ratio" brings back that sound prominently, along with electronic drums from King. They combine to hypnotic effect with long tones from Speed's tenor sax calling over busy, skittering electronic loops and rhythms to end the program.
This is a new quartet, but one operating at a high level right out of the gate. Hopefully they will be heard from again. There is certainly room for more experimentation: it would be especially interesting to hear what expanded electronics would do to the group sound.
The Shining One; Abandoned Reminder; Daylight Ghosts; New Glory; The Great
Silence; Ancient; Jamaican Farewell; Subtle Living Equations; Phantom Ratio.
Craig Taborn: piano, electronics; Chris Speed: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Chris
Lightcap: acoustic bass, electric bass; Dave King: drums, electronic percussion.