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Album Review

Craig Taborn: Shadow Plays


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Craig Taborn: Shadow Plays
Recorded with stunning clarity of sound and a brave vision, at Vienna's Mozart-Saal of the Wiener Konzerthaus in March 2020, Craig Taborn's visceral variations on a theme and quixotic poetics rise and fall majestically on Shadow Plays, a bold, fully-rendered successor to his last solo ECM outing Avenging Angel (2011)

The rapturously inquisitive Taborn absorbs listeners immediately into his creative space by employing chiming arpeggios (like flocks of birds) and chords of doom to introduce the venturesome, seventeen-minute opus "Bird Templars." The piece's increasingly wide vistas break open like clouds forming, changing shape, eloping westward, eastward, northward, south. Wherever the imaginative winds might blow. It is as quixotic as it is adamant.

The pianist's second musical offering within a year, (60 one-minute pieces streamed randomly entitled 60 X Sixty can be heard at https://60xsixty.com/) Shadow Plays is by far the more rewarding and satisfying. Riffing, riding, striding, ("Conspiracy of Things") Taborn distills from all musics (ambient, dance, electro, trance, raga, pick your playlist) synthesizing seven fully-realized compositions which need no explanation or apology. Sharply angular and aggressive yet oddly restorative, the title track's eighteen minutes could be one of the pianist's grandest creations. The same could be said for the whimsical diversions built into the heart of "Concordia Discors."

Taborn is a master of whispered understatement as well as contemporary bombast; his courageous, improvised solo work tends to lean towards Keith Jarrett's far flung pastorals and Cecil Taylor's knife-throwing harmonics. Shadow Plays even finds him pushing up against those most revered pillars.

Track Listing

Bird Templars; Discordia Concors; Conspiracy Of Things; Concordia Discors; A Code With Spells; Shadow Play; Now In Hope.


Craig Taborn: piano.

Album information

Title: Shadow Plays | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: ECM Records

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