Craig Taborn: piano; Chris Speed: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Chris Lightcap: acoustic and electric bass; Dave King: drums and percussion.
In addition to an admirable technique, postmodernist pianist Craig Taborn owns an enviable versatility that makes him one of the most in-demand musicians of our times. Although feeling comfortable in any genre, his preferences are clearly steeped in modern creative jazz and free improvisation. Throughout his explorations and reflections, we may identify a compound of other genres such as funk, classical, electronic, and less often Eastern music.
His third album of originals on the ECM label, is entitled Daylight Ghosts and features Chris Speed on reeds, Chris Lightcap on bass, and The Bad Plus’s Dave King on drums, all of them consistent bandleaders who have nothing to prove at this point.
When you see this lineup, it would be reasonable to think of tempestuous rhythms and burning interaction, but what you’ll find here is of more cerebral nature. This doesn’t mean it’s less intense or passionate, and “The Shining One”, the auspicious first tune of the recording, is there to demonstrate that. As expected, Taborn’s piano doesn’t join the rhythm section in a typical way, but rather juxtaposes as a textural layer, rambling freely without ever losing direction. Brief-yet-swift melodic lines are occasionally thrown in by Speed, building aesthetics, and the tune ends up in an elucidatory unison.
Feathery breaths of wind slide into “Abandoned Reminder” and “The Great Silence”. Their soothing ambiance would be better absorbed if you close your eyes and empty your mind. However, while the former gets more adventurous in its final section, mixing avant-jazz and modern classical within a bold 6/8-metered pace, the latter, embellished by Speed's clarinet, acquires a gentle percussive flow.
This mood is turned aside by a couple of gratifying dances – the insidiously Latinized “New Glory”, which sways along with elegance and thrives through Taborn-Speed strange dialogue, and “Ancient”, well anchored in an unflinching cool groove and African pulse that feeds a crescendo. On both these tunes, Lightcap shows off his influential conducting capabilities and superior musicianship.
The title track is a lyrical poem that advances at a swooning 4/4 tempo, transiting to a 5/8 when King’s steady beat together with Taborn's ostinato and Lightcap’s bass pedal are triumphantly superimposed. At this phase, hopeful tones prevail over the previous wistful ones.
Highly contrasting are the plaintive rendition of Roscoe Mitchell’s “Jamaican Farewell” and the last track, “Phantom Ratio”, a half-hypnotic half-psychedelic electronic-tinged voyage propelled by a robotic pulse.
Suffused with finesse and lyricism, Daylight Ghosts bristles with great dynamics and a very personal character, feeling pretty urban and contemporary. It shows Taborn in its maximum force and a quartet that corresponds accordingly. The power of the collective, overriding any individual moment, leads us to unexplored trajectories and magnificent discoveries.
Label: ECM Records, 2017
01 – The Shining One ► 03 – Daylight Ghosts ► 04 – New Glory