Remarkable New York pianist Craig Taborn is in town this weekend for a trio performance with drummer Gerald Cleaver and Danish reedist Lotte Anker on Sunday at the Hungry Brain. Taborn touched on the making of his excellent solo album, Avenging Angel (ECM), in a discussion with Chicago keyboardist Rob Clearfield in this week’s paper, but he didn’t talk about the actual music much.
The record is only Taborn’s fourth as a leader, and it’s also his first solo recording. One of the things that’s so special about him is his range, and Avenging Angel carves out new space—he’s never made music quite like this before. It’s sparse, meditative, and somber, and as Clearfield mentions, there’s a strong contemporary-classical feel to many of the 13 pieces, mostly in the austerity of his phrasing (a la Erik Satie, but with less sentimentality). But the rhythmic force of the title track and the fitful motivic development of “Neverland” make it clear that Taborn is a jazzer through and through. (Below you can listen to the latter track.) It’s a wonderful album—one of the best solo piano recordings I’ve heard in the past few years—and it represents only a small fraction of Taborn’s full diapason.