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Craig Taborn: Flaga: Book of Angels, Volume 27

Dan McClenaghan By

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There was always a sense that pianist Craig Taborn was more successful as a "super sideman" than as a leader of his own recordings. His contributions to CD offerings by saxophonist Tim Berne, reedman Roscoe Mitchell, saxophonists David Binney and James Carter, and many more, have been critical in crafting dozens of excellent music sets. Then he recorded a solo piano disc for ECM Records, Avenging Angel (2011), followed by a trio set for the label, Chants (2013). These two excellent discs cemented his credibility as an important contemporary voice as a leader.

The ECM discs featured Taborn originals. Now the pianist, exploring John Zorn's Masada Songbook Two, offers up Book of Angels, Volume 27: Flaga, a set that—along with Chants—establishes Craig Taborn as a top level leader of the dynamic, modernistic piano trio outings.

John Zorn—record company head (Tzadik Records)/alto saxophonist/composer—is prolific, and generous with his music. He has turned over hundreds of compositions in his Book of Angels series—an exploration of his Jewish roots and Jewish mysticism—to a numerous top level artists: guitarist Pat Metheny, pianists Jamie Saft and Uri Caine, Medeski, Martin and Wood, trumpeter Dave Douglas, tenor sax man Joe Lovano. The results have proven uniformly superb, especially so with Craig Taborn's contribution to the Book of Angels, Flaga.

Taborn is joined here by bassist Christian McBride and drummer Tyshawn Sorey. They are a free-flying unit that revels in Zorn's music. They are not careful; they attack the tunes with a joyful fervor, churning out dark turbulence on "Machnia" and "Peliel," painting complex-yet-approachable melodic portraits underpinned by passionate rhythmic grooves on "Katzfiel," exploring a Jewish-tinged Cecil Taylor territory on "Rogziel." Then there is the pure, delicate, mysterious beauty of "Shaftiel."

Taborn and his band-mates have—in their immersion on John Zorn's music—crafted a singular trio sound—ruggedly iconoclastic, fresh, fervid, relentlessly off-kilter yet still compellingly melodic, and beautiful, on this splendid recording.

Track Listing: Machnia; Peliel; Katzfiel; Talmai-Take 1; Shaftiel; Agbas; Rogziel; Harbonah; Talmai-Take2

Personnel: Craig Taborn: piano; Chrstian McBride: bass; Tyshawn Sorey: drums.

Title: Flaga: Book of Angels, Volume 27 | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Tzadik

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