Craig Taborn

Doris Duke Artist Award, 2014

New York, NY

Pianist and composer Craig Taborn is involved in straight-ahead and free jazz, as well as techno and electro-acoustic sound collage. He is as likely to be playing a sequencer as a Hammond B3 organ or acoustic piano. He has worked in many groups beside bandleaders James Carter, Tim Berne, Chris Potter, Dave Douglas, Dave Holland, and Vijay Iyer, as well as with producer Bill Laswell, guitarist David Torn, and electronic music pioneer Carl Craig. His 2004 Junk Magic (Thirsty Ear) is described as a watershed album for the merger of jazz and electronica. His many awards and accolades include CMA Presenting Jazz (2013) and French-American Jazz Exchange grants and multiple DownBeat and JazzTimes “Best Electric Keyboard” citations. His recent solo Avenging Angel (ECM, 2011) received wide critical acclaim, and his second ECM release, Chants, earned the number one spot on The New York Times list of top ten albums of 2013. He is currently touring with his trio featured on Chants.

  • Photo Credit: Rue Sakayama
  • Craig Taborn- “Beat The Ground,” Chants (ECM, 2013):
    “Beat The Ground,” Chants (ECM, 2013)
  • Craig Taborn- “Avenging Angel,” Avenging Angel (ECM, 2011):
    “Avenging Angel,” Avenging Angel (ECM, 2011)
  • “Untitled II/American Landscape” (2010)
  • Photo Credit: Eddy Westveer

Suppose you just met someone who didn't know your work, what project from the past 10 years would you direct them to as an entry point to you and your work, and why?

Avenging Angel (ECM Records), a recording of mostly improvised solo piano works composed in the time of their performance, is an immediate and unadorned document of my creative process. Many of the areas of music that interest me are explored in these pieces including silence and sound, repetition and stasis, and the dismantling of styles and idioms. Owing to the very personal and “stripped down” nature of solo piano performance these ideas are rendered in their most explicit form in this context.

Avenging Angel can serve as a sort of primer to the investigation of some of my other compositions for improvising ensembles and/or electronic music with improvisation. Much of the initial material for the music in these larger projects generates from a similar creative process as is documented on Avenging Angel. Starting from that place, the music is then either simplified or complicated and otherwise enriched either by the increased palette offered through electronics or by the presence of other creative musicians working with the material. So what is begun as work on myself with one instrument, I then bring to other people and into other contexts to be extended and evolved. Ultimately, I see all of these projects as related in that they explore how music can be created as a result of improvised interactions with an instrument, with electronics, and with each other.