Tag Archives: Craig Taborn

Music and More review by Tim Niland

CF315CDChris Lightcap’s Bigmouth – Epicenter (CF 315)
Bassist Chris Lightcap has worked with a who’s-who of A-list modern jazz talent, but as of yet has released comparatively few albums as a leader. His latest finds him in august company, with Craig Taborn on keyboards, Tony Malaby and Chris Cheek on tenor saxophone and Gerald Cleaver on drums. The ensemble works very well together and the music is consistently interesting. “Nine South” opens with electric piano and saxophones as the music blasts off fast and hard, carving a deep and truly exciting path. Both the solos and ensemble playing is first rate, including percussive keyboards and punishing drums. The saxophones roar out of the gate on “Epicenter,” giving way to a thick and nimble piano, bass and drums section. After some initial probing by one of the saxophonists, the whole group comes in with the power and urgency of a big band, not necessarily playing free, but unencumbered and thrillingly fast. “Down East” develops a powerfully percussive rhythm to underscore squalls of saxophone that achieve an exciting feel, like being bludgeoned by a tidal wave of music. Saxophones slither about on “Stilwell” building the anticipation piece by piece in the shadow of a shape-shifting keyboards before they rip through and fly intertwined over throbbing bass and drums. There is a solemn and reverent feel to “Stone By Stone” with saxophone elegies and beams of keyboard building up with the horns fleshing out their sound along with some elastic bass but the overall sense of mystery prevails. Ending the album by covering The Velvet Underground’s “All Tomorrow’s Parties” was a truly inspired idea where the bass led intro builds to percussive piano that recalls the original and vocalized saxophone ably taking the place of Nico’s moody vocals. This album was excellent and deserves to be remembered when the best-of lists are bandied about in December. The musicians are motivated, and the music is bright and bustling with ideas.

http://jazzandblues.blogspot.pt/2015/04/chris-lightcaps-bigmouth-epicenter.html

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Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci

LOUIS SCLAVIS / CRAIG TABORN / TOM RAINEY – Eldorado Trio (CF 193)
This French-American combination of reeds, piano and drums reveals its values through a type of music whose immediate outlook appears cleverly questioning and emancipated from styles at once, making the most of swiftly executed instant designs that never give the idea of miscalculated moves or sixth-sense deficiency. Yet in Eldorado Trio, a mix of studio and live performances, there are also episodes – such as “La Visite” – that literally touch the heart in their mournful rigour. The articulated clarity with which the musicians express inner urges and creative tendencies is testimony to an exceptional ability in controlling and pacing the improvised and/or scored counterpoints upon which the CD is masterfully edified. The thematic delineations are informed by admirable gravity, focus and lack of ideological and instrumental dispersion. Moody suggestions and cutting insinuations may alternate over the program, according to a consecutiveness of intelligible complication and un-mellifluous pensiveness; there’s no trace of pessimism whatsoever, but it’s not an all-smiles album either. The interplay is major league throughout: Taborn’s pianism incredibly tight even in the “troublesome” tracks, Sclavis – who conceived the large part of the material – offering lyrically hurting or obliquely peppering lines depending on what crosses his mind, Rainey working the drumset with realistic far-sightedness and heartening absence of easy tricks, thus adding further stability and class to this challenging set.
http://touchingextremes.wordpress.com/2011/12/

Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci

LOUIS SCLAVIS / CRAIG TABORN / TOM RAINEY – Eldorado Trio (CF 193)
This French-American combination of reeds, piano and drums reveals its values through a type of music whose immediate outlook appears cleverly questioning and emancipated from styles at once, making the most of swiftly executed instant designs that never give the idea of miscalculated moves or sixth-sense deficiency. Yet in Eldorado Trio, a mix of studio and live performances, there are also episodes – such as “La Visite” – that literally touch the heart in their mournful rigour. The articulated clarity with which the musicians express inner urges and creative tendencies is testimony to an exceptional ability in controlling and pacing the improvised and/or scored counterpoints upon which the CD is masterfully edified. The thematic delineations are informed by admirable gravity, focus and lack of ideological and instrumental dispersion. Moody suggestions and cutting insinuations may alternate over the program, according to a consecutiveness of intelligible complication and un-mellifluous pensiveness; there’s no trace of pessimism whatsoever, but it’s not an all-smiles album either. The interplay is major league throughout: Taborn’s pianism incredibly tight even in the “troublesome” tracks, Sclavis – who conceived the large part of the material – offering lyrically hurting or obliquely peppering lines depending on what crosses his mind, Rainey working the drumset with realistic far-sightedness and heartening absence of easy tricks, thus adding further stability and class to this challenging set.
http://touchingextremes.wordpress.com/2011/12/06/louis-sclavis-craig-taborn-tom-rainey-eldorado-trio/

JazzWord review by Ken Waxman

Sclavis/Taborn/Rainey – Eldorado Trio (CF 193)
New Old Luten Trio – White Power Blues (EUPH 025)
Taking as a starting point the trio instrumentation used superbly by piano experimenters such as Cecil Taylor and Alexander von Schippenbach, these CDs demonstrate improvisational concepts plus a balance between older and younger players. Skillful improvisations, the results produced are completely divergent, if equally significant.

Both recorded live, each session differs from the get-go. A Leipzig meeting, White Power Blues – an apt if somewhat politically incorrect title – celebrates a meeting between 75-year-old reedist Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky and two improvisers at least 40 years his junior: pianist Elan Pauer and percussionist Christian Lillinger. Petrowsky, along with trombonist Conrad Bauer, pianist Ulrich Gumpert and percussionist Günter Baby Sommer created noteworthy advanced Jazz in the former East Germany. A Sommer- protégé, Berlin-based Lillinger with his own Hyperactive Kid trio and backing players such as saxophonist Henrik Walsdorf, has become a lively, energetic drummer. Meanwhile Pauer ranges over the keyboard while touching on a multiplicity of sonic impulses. In short, the two extended tracks are no-holds-barred Free Jazz.

Twenty years’ Petrowsky’s junior, French soprano saxophonist and bass clarinetist Louis Sclavis was formally trained and over the years has flirted with melodic sounds related to folk music, both real and imaginary. His partners here, both Americans – keyboardist Craig Taborn and drummer Tom Rainey – are long-time associates of innovative players including saxophonist Tim Berne and bassist William Parker. Although the alchemist gold references in the trio’s name may be a fantasy, the musical balance among the three is a certainty. Overall the CD’s eight tracks are mid-length, more formalist and poised than those created with sometimes over-exuberant playing of the New Old Luten Trio.

Superficially the main difference between the German trio’s improvisations is length, with the second almost twice as long as the first. Equally high-powered, agitato and staccato, the shorter “Vitalistic Hymn” is both a prelude to the title track and a mantra for self-determinism. Petrowsky for one doesn’t let the strictures applied by politics, geography or aging shape his playing. Moving among alto saxophone, clarinet, flute and quarter-flute, his flutter-tonguing, a capella twittering, sturdy split tones and whistles migrate with him. Of course there are more pressurized spits and tongue bubbles from the clarinet, reed-biting and circular-breathed squeaks from the sax, and fog-horn-like vibrations and basso-like breaths from the flute. Rattling and clipping the keys, stroking and stopping the piano’s inner strings and occasionally pummeling its woody frame, Pauer demonstrates his skills here. For his part, Lillinger’s strategy encompasses rugged whacks, steady clip-clop and tinting his beats with quivering gongs and clattering cymbals.

Rigid drum top smacks and cymbal skimming with drumsticks keeps the more-than 36½ minute “White Power Blues” percolating. With thematic shifts from the exposition, variants and the finale also reflecting the reedist’s horn-switching, glottal punctuation in the form of side-slipping lines and split tones share space with duck-like quacks and continuous screeches. Unexpected legato patches show up as well.

At one juncture Petrowsky sounds as if he’s improvising on “Perdido”, other times snatches of Bebop heads pop up, then as quickly are swallowed by the swirling and layered Klangfarbenmelodie. Dynamic feints and an assembly line-like collection of percussive tones come from Pauer; who marks tune transitions with aleatory keyboard pumps. Additionally Pauer’s surging glissandi sometimes alternate with the prodding and strumming of the piano’s internal strings. By the final variations, the saxophonist lets loose with a reed-shredding fortissimo cry. The pianist plays what could be termed Zombie boogie-woogie, with multiple note piling, but without walking-bass rhythms; while the drummer smacks and pounds kinetically.

It’s worth noting that in person, with his hair-flying and body moving every which way, Lillinger is an energetic and almost overwhelming player. Such is the cumulative vitality of this trio nonetheless, that at times his playing is almost submerged by the sheer staccato muscle of the three improvising together.

Moving from White Power to Eldorado, Rainey doesn’t overpower Taborn or Sclavis with his equipment either. His motivation is seamless adherence to what the others are creating, and to help the results without drawing attention to himself. From the very beginning Rainey’s rim shots, press rolls and other movements are perfectly timed, and as spectacular in their execution as Lillinger’s are in theirs. But the American’s playing is more in-the-pocket, easily connecting with, but also muting, Taborn’s frequently staccato chording and Sclavis’ timbres which run from squeaks to snorts.

Eldorado Trio also exposes a wider variety of moods than those on the other CD. “To Steve Lacy”, for instance, with Sclavis appropriately playing soprano sax, is a lament built on a moderato line stretched to near breaking-point, until succeeded by reed bites. Taborn’s comping brings in languid urbanity while Rainey’s drags and rolls are suitably unforced. Similarly, “Lucioles” is a chamber-like fantasia with Taborn creating dancing pianissimo lines so consonant, that the outcome is nearly equal temperament. The clarinetist’s continuously breathed tongue flutters are similarly crepuscule, as the drummer equals the stylized playing of his partners with hand pumps and brushes on drum tops. Although contrasting dynamics, splintered cross tones and protracted glissandi show up on the CD, no matter how atonal and contrapuntal the construction appears, the linear nature of the tune is never sacrificed.

To stretch a metaphor perhaps, it’s true that love making can be either hard and fast or slow and sensual, without either being correct. So too is the interaction of a double-bass-less trio. As with intimacy, some may prefer the aggressive style of the German band, others the more mannered style of the Franco-American aggregation. Adventurous types may be inclined to try both.http://www.jazzword.com/review/127465

Improjazz review by Luc Bouquet

Wall Street Journal review by Martin Johnson

Chris Lightcap’s Bigmouth – Deluxe (CF 74)
“Deluxe,” the superb new recording by bassist Chris Lightcap and his group Bigmouth, a quintet that has played together since 2005, is emblematic of a few trends on the local jazz scene.

The album features several first-tier New York musicians— saxophonists Tony Malaby, Chris Cheek and Andrew D’Angelo, drummer Gerald Cleaver and keyboardist Craig Taborn—and is the first recording by Mr. Lightcap’s group in nearly eight years. It was done for Portugal’s Clean Feed label, which has picked up the slack as many American labels reduce their output of new jazz.

“It’s hard to get us together in one place,” said Mr. Lightcap recently at a café near his Windsor Terrace home. “We’re all so busy that we don’t get to play as much as we’d like.”

As domestic jazz recording has declined, so have the opportunities for the next wave of greats to play on the best-known stages in jazz. To get exposure, they have turned to smaller places instead. On Thursday, Bigmouth will perform at the Stone, an artist-run space in the East Village.

Mr. Lightcap, who is 39, has played with avant-garde and mainstream groups since arriving in New York in the early 1990s. His primary sideman gigs now are with violinist Regina Carter and her Reverse Thread group, which blends jazz and African music; and with such leading musicians as pianist James Carney, guitarist Ben Monder, drummer Matt Wilson and Circle Down—a group led by drummer Chad Taylor.

Ms. Carter first heard Mr. Lightcap at a rehearsal with saxophonist Dave Rogers 11 years ago. “The charts were rhythmically challenging,” she said, “but Chris’s playing was assertive and motivating.” She added that she was impressed by the sound he achieved without amplification.

It is Mr. Lightcap’s sound—big and elastic—that makes “Deluxe” so appealing. Most bassists provide the musical ground for their bandmates from behind, but Mr. Lightcap’s combo features his sound out front with no loss of unity. Messrs. Malaby and Cheek’s two tenor saxophones are out front, too, creating soaring harmonies and incisive, contrasting solos.

Mr. Lightcap said the band’s structure grew out of his experiences here in the late ’90s. “I played in a lot of trios—usually bass, drums and sax—without a chordal instrument because a lot of rooms didn’t have a good piano,” he said. That led him to start thinking about a group with no piano and more saxophones on the front line; his first two recordings as a leader were in a two-sax, bass and drum quartet.

On “Deluxe,” Mr. Lightcap has added a third saxophonist, Mr. D’Angelo, on two tracks. It’s the first time they’ve recorded with Mr. Taborn, who joined the group in 2005 on Wurlitzer electric piano and acoustic piano. “I love the sound of the Wurlitzer,” the bassist said. “It takes me back to some of the music I loved growing up, like Ray Charles in the early ’70s, Aretha Franklin’s ‘Live at the Fillmore,’ Donny Hathaway’s ‘Live,’ and Yes.”

A native of Latrobe, Pa., Mr. Lightcap studied piano and violin as a child, but didn’t become passionate about playing until he took up the bass as a teenager. He attended the Governor’s School of the Arts, a Pennsylvania program for aspiring musicians. “I was the only bassist, so I got to play everything,” he said.

He wasn’t completely sold on becoming a professional musician, but after graduating from Williams College he attended a workshop with the great drummer Ed Blackwell that convinced him to come to New York and give it a shot. Here he distinguished himself by playing on both sides of a divided jazz scene. “There were a lot of cliques back then,” he said. “But now everybody plays everything.”

Mr. Lightcap met Mr. Cleaver (whose own band, Uncle June, will follow Bigmouth at the Stone on Thursday), at a session with pianist Ben Waltzer in 1998. Mr. Cleaver said in a recent email that “Chris has always had a very deep, spiritual quality in his playing; everything he plays swings hard and is funky.”

For the new project, Mr. Lightcap said that he wanted to avoid the rustic sound of most jazz recordings. “As real as that sounds, it’s artificial,” he said. “It doesn’t sound like that in the studio.” Instead, “Deluxe” has an opaque sheen that makes the sound fuller and more expansive. “I really wanted the sound to reflect that this band is so much more than the sum of its parts.”
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703555804576102020780155268.html

All Michael G. Nastos

Chris Lightcap’s Bigmouth – Bigmouth (CF 174)
Bigmouth — a project of bassist Chris Lightcap — apparently is inspired by stretched-out, two-toned, tail-finned, white-wall-tired cars of the mid-’50s, in reference to the cover art on Deluxe. The music is ultra-modern from a compositional standpoint, only hinting at neo-bop while pushing the creative improvised harmonic envelope. Lightcap’s expertise on the bass is second to none, as he pushes and prods his way through these original works with an absolutely stellar band of drummer Gerald Cleaver, electric keyboardist Craig Taborn, tenor saxophonists Tony Malaby and Chris Cheek, and on three tracks alto saxophonist Andrew D’Angelo. While some allusions to the vintage autos are reflected in the titles, Lightcap’s vision is of the future, a heady mix of heart and soul embedded in this refreshing new music. The human cry from the three saxophonists in tandem shows their individual strengths abandoned for the common good, especially during the meaty, weighty “Ting,” as an active Lightcap sets the tone in 6/8 time while the stabbing Fender Rhodes of Taborn provides alternate tangents. The music is centered but perfectly identified by shooting out many sparks and shafts of light. “Platform” and “The Clutch” have Cheek and Malaby in saddened or hunched-over moods, funky in odd meters, as if on a long junket to nowhere. There are even darker or bluesy images conjured — slow, deliberate, or swinging — but Lightcap’s slap bass as a prelude for the rockin’ “Fuzz” gives a clearer view of what might be representative of a road song, and a signature sound in relation to the hot rod or classic car. This is a terrific recording from an incredible band that everyone who enjoys these musicians — as individuals or bandleaders in their own right — should play frequently while rolling down the superhighway of life.
http://www.allmusic.com/album/deluxe-r1800559/review