Craig Taborn piano, electronics
Chris Speed tenor saxophone, clarinet
Chris Lightcap double bass, guitar
Dave King drums, electronic percussion
Recorded May 2016 at Avatar Studios, New York
Engineer: James A. Farber
Assistant: Tim Marchiafava
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Release date: February 3, 2017
In the footsteps of two successful leader dates for ECM, pianist Craig Taborn rolls the die of paradigm once again and hits a solid four with Chris Speed on tenor saxophone and clarinet, Chris Lightcap on bass and guitar, and Dave King on drums and electronic percussion. Opener “The Shining One” is sure to delight fans of label mate Tim Berne, whose penchant for complex geometry is echoed here. Comparison aside, there’s a DNA helix all its own down which these musicians slide toward endings as abrupt as their beginnings. Speed navigates the bandleader’s genetic code as if it were his own back yard, while Lightcap and King engage in sequencing that feels at once parasitic and parthenogenetic.
“Abandoned Reminder” unravels its story from whispering electronics, as Taborn narrates a ballad-turned-trip down a stairway of psychological proportion. Such changes are indicative of an overall constitution, which by suggestion of an unusual fluidity activates proteins in underused listening muscles. The title track and “The Great Silence” are remarkable in this regard. Their enmeshment of soft virtue and hard truth is the quartet’s calling card. Like the arpeggios that thread both in their final phases, they treat predictability as a springboard for its own undoing.
Says Taborn of working with such widely accomplished musicians, “This music trades on transparency. I wanted all the elements to be crystalline, so that the layers of the music work like a prism.” Indeed, prismatic effects abound throughout“New Glory,” in which Taborn and Speed exchange unveiled conversation, and “Ancient.” The latter’s transition from bass monologue to ritual confluence shows a band working with patience and detail. As the parts, so the whole. Whether in the resonant piano-drums duet of “Subtle Living Equations” or the cosmic textures of “Phantom Ratio,” which floats Speed’s tenor on an ocean of nostalgic loops, the effect is consistently appropriate to the theme at hand. And while Taborn’s writing tends to pay homage to those themes at microscopic levels, his nod to Roscoe Mitchell’s “Jamaican Farewell” sees the jewel for the facets, and shines a methodical light of appreciation through a heart whose every beat is musical gospel. This is good news indeed.