Tag Archives: Craig Taborn

Upcoming jazz events

Danilo Pérez plays Scullers February 15 and 16 . Photo by Luke Severn.

Danilo Pérez plays Scullers February 15 and 16 . Photo by Luke Severn.

Plenty of good stuff happening in Boston-area jazz this week. You can find these and other choice arts picks at The Arts Fuse.

Pat Donaher
February 8, 4 p.m.
Lily Pad, Cambridge MA

Alto saxophonist Pat Donaher’s beguiling Who We Are Together lives in that world where jazz crosses over into a kind of classical chamber music.  Or maybe the other way around. With his alternating duo partners, pianists Hwaen Ch’uqi and Camille Barile, Donaher favors spontaneous improvisations, with attractive folk-like melodies and ambiguous harmonies. A Quincy, MA, native, Donaher attended the Eastman School of Music before returning home to complete a master’s degree at New England Conservatory. At the Lily Pad he’ll be joined by fellow Eastman graduate Hwaen Ch’uqi.

Ampersand Concert Series
February 13,  8 p.m.
MIT Bartos Theatre, Cambridge MA

The MIT List Visual Arts Center and WMBR Radio present the seventh in their performance series, this time with the Boston/Amherst jazz group Outnumbered and New Haven bassist and electronic improviser Carl Testa. The Outnumbered features some of the best players in the area: alto saxophonist Jason Robinson, multi-sax guy Charlie Kohlhase, pianist Josh Rosen, bassist Bruno Råberg, and drummer Curt Newton.

Dave Holland’s Prism
February 13-14, 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Regattabar, Cambridge MA

Bassist and composer Dave Holland’s always compelling blend of grooving mixed meters and controlled contrapuntal mayhem this time falls into the hands of a new quartet with a homonymous new album on ECM. The players are guitarist Kevin Eubanks (a longtime Holland foil before jumping to direct the Tonight Show band), pianist Craig Taborn, and drummer Eric Harland. As usual with Holland’s outfits, everyone contributes original tunes, which makes for an especially alert crew.

Kate McGarry and Keith Ganz
February 13, 8 p.m.
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston

Kate McGarry has long been mixing jazz with a variety of American pop and folk. Tonight she and her husband, the guitarist Keith Ganz, step out of their usual band format to play as the title alter-ego duo from their new album, Genevieve & Ferdinand (Sunnyside), somehow making Paul Simon’s “American Tune,” Todd Rundgen’s “Pretending To Care,” and Iriving Berlin’s “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” all part of the same sound world. You can also expect a couple of McGarry and Ganz’s well-turned originals.

Newport Jazz Festival: NOW 60
February 13, 8 p.m.
Berklee Performance Center, Boston MA

This promotional anniversary tour for the granddaddy of jazz festivals looks on the face of it like a grab-bag of supremely talented, medium-profile all-stars, but the tour producers and bandleader Anat Cohen have declared a specific agenda: to focus not only on music from Newport’s storied history, but also original compositions and arrangements from everyone in the band. And it is a formidable crew. Saxophonist and clarinetist Cohen will be joined by multi-lingual singer Karrin Allyson, trumpeter Randy Brecker, guitarist Mark Whitfield, pianist Peter Martin, bassist Larry Grenadier, and drummer Clarence Penn. This second night of a 21-date tour (a Celebrity Series of Boston event) should be crackling.
Read my Boston Globe piece about the tour here.

“Third Stream Headwaters”
February 13, 7 p.m.
Jordan Hall, Boston MA

Rare offerings at New England Conservatory tonight. The Contemporary Improvisation department goes deep into Third Stream — the term coined by composer and former NEC president Gunther Schuller to describe a blending of classical and jazz musical procedures (and also the original name of the CI department).  Topping the bill are Charles Mingus’s “Half-Mast Inhibition,” the great bassist-composer’s earliest orchestral work (originally recorded in 1960) and the premiere of Schuller’s “From Here to There,” commissioned by NEC. Also on the bill are Darius Milhaud’s “La Création du Monde,” Milton Babbit’s “All Set,” and Frank Zappa’s “Dog Breath Variations.” Charles Peltz conducts

Catherine Russell
February 14, 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston MA

No less an authority than Nat Hentoff has called singer Catherine Russell “the real thing.” With a strong pedigree (daughter of Louis Armstrong orchestra music director Luis Russell and guitarist Carline Ray, of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm), Russell made her early career singing high-profile back-up gigs (Paul Simon, David Bowie, Jackson Browne, Cyndi Lauper, Rosanne Cash) before going solo about 10 years ago and delivering one beautifully assured album after another, focusing on vintage swing and blues, with the occasional oddball and apt contemporary choice (the Grateful Dead’s “New Speedyway Boogie”). She has the kind of voice and diction that lend every song a conversational directness and literate clarity even when she’s hitting the high notes and swinging her hardest. Her latest, Bring It Back (Jazz Village), comes out this Tuesday and it’s another well-designed collection, guided by her own taste and by the skill of music director/guitarist Matt Munisteri.

Danilo Pérez’s “Panama 500”
February 15 [8 p.m. and 10 p.m.] and 16 [4 p.m. and 7 p.m.]
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston MA

The 47-year-old pianist and composer’slatest CD, Panama 500 (Mack Avenue), is his most ambitious achievement yet. Looking again at his native Panama, he offers a portrait that mixes folkloric percussion, chants of the indigenous Guna people, modern-chamber music string writing, and, of course, fleet jazz-piano trio sections. At times, all these languages are layered so that history emerges as a living memory. Pérez brings an ensemble from the album to Scullers: violinist Alex Hargreaves, percussionist Roman Díaz, and his longtime trio mates, bassist Ben Street and drummer Adam Cruz.
Read my Boston Globe review of the CD here.

Craig Taborn Trio at the Regattabar

Gerald Cleaver, Craig Taborn, and Thomas Morgan. Photo by John Rogers, courtesy of ECM.

Gerald Cleaver, Craig Taborn, and Thomas Morgan. Photo by John Rogers, courtesy of ECM.

There’s nothing new under the sun, and most musicians are working within some kind of tradition.  Still, there’s always an urge  to hear that tradition extended and transformed. At the Regattabar Wednesday night, the Craig Taborn Trio, although clearly working within the jazz tradition, essentially created their own language.

Pianist Taborn, now 43, has been has been a “one-to-watch” since first recording with James Carter’s quartet in the early ’90s, someone who could play inside or “out,” with great chops and a broad sense of jazz vocabulary, from bebop to Cecil Taylor. During the 2000s, he had a lot of visibility playing Fender Rhodes with Dave Douglas’s band, Chris Potter’s Underground, Tim Berne, and David Torn.  He was also releasing his own recordings as a leader and playing with everyone from Roscoe Mitchell to Bill Laswell and Mat Maneri.

But in 2011 he released a solo acoustic piano album, Avenging Angel, and then, in 2012, a trio record, Chants, both on ECM. The first was like a series of etudes, intense formal exercises, but full of expression and dramatic dynamic constrasts. Some tracks, like “Glossolalia,” wouldn’t have been out of place on a classical program.

The trio is another thing again. Taborn has reportedly been working with this trio — bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Gerald Cleaver — for eight years, but Chants was their first release. There’s very little on the album that you’d call “tuneful.” Taborn likes to work with intense, repetitive rhythmic-melodic devices — a little cell of melody that expands or contracts as the trio explores it. That’s not all they do, but at this point you don’t go into a Taborn performance expecting “How High the Moon.”

At the Regattabar, Taborn introduced the band, and then they played for a solid hour, with only three brief pauses and no further commentary. They began with a spare, softly played repeated piano figure in a hazy harmony with a low rumbling pulse from Cleaver, very dry, with snares off, light cymbal strokes, and isolated notes from Morgan’s bass. At first, Taborn played so softly that I worried that at some point we wouldn’t be able to hear him over the drums. Gradually the piano figures unfolded into insistent repeated tremolos in the left hand and more free dulcimer patterns in the right. The incremental shifs in the music suggested one of Morton Feldman’s meditations, and soon the volume and number of notes had increased. Cleaver’s steady rumble picked up. At about the 10-minute mark there was a shift to a near-swing dotted rhythm in Cleaver’s cymbals, but still with that arrhythmic rumbling pulse underneath. Soon, the left-hand repetition — joined by the throb of Morgan’s bass with Cleaver’s tom-tom — created an exquisite tension that was miles from the impressionistic dreamland of the opening few minutes. How had we arrived here?

Taborn played longer lines, approaching the extended right-hand lines of jazz piano, but pungent, with plenty of dissonance between right hand and left. He began to spell out chord progressions, unison lines between left hand and bass, and then a final fortissimo cadence by the band. The audience exploded. The band had been playing for about 20 minutes, something that was essentially one extended piece. This was not one “tune,” with long solos, but a carefully calibrated group effort. In fact, you couldn’t easily identify any portion of the piece as a solo.

The night went on like that. Two more pieces completed the hour, then a 10-minute encore. One driving vamp suggested a slightly askew Cuban son-montuno. A twisty solo piano introduction hinted at Monk and early Cecil Taylor, as if about to become a jazz standard before the harmony became unmoored. And always there was the astonishing independence of Taborn’s hands — at times hammering out one of those impossible fast, odd-meter repetitions in the left hand while the right marched in slow, stately chords against the fury of Cleaver’s drums, Morgan’s bass pivoting between the two. And in one passage, Taborn took off in furious parallel runs in both hands.

Jazz fans often talk abut the “telepathic” communication taking place in bands, but the formal integrity the Taborn trio achieves in the balance between written material and improvisation is special. Morgan has a beautiful touch, sometimes nearly as soft as Taborn’s quietest passages, and in the beginning of that encore they all seemed to be playing as quietly as they could. There were extended passages where Taborn and Morgan played in pure counterpoint — extended lines, completely independent, but also in sync. In the encore, Taborn fell into one of his odd-meter left-hand repetitions (a pianist friend counted one passage as being in 11, “unheard of”), while his right hand shouted freely with big exultant chords. A kind of call-and-response. He smiled and nodded at his bandmates, and everyone fell into a slamming unison figure and — bang — it was over.

I never saw the original Bill Evans trio — in fact, I never saw a lot of things — but I did see this.