Avenging Angel

Craig Taborn

“Avenging Angel” is Craig Taborn’s distinguished contribution to the great solo piano tradition at ECM, a powerful, purposeful and rigorous album, which rises to the challenges of the format and transcends them. The disc explores the textural dimensions of sound, builds new structures, uncovers a rugged lyricism. Recorded in the optimal acoustics of the recital room at Lugano’s Studio RSI, with Manfred Eicher producing, it’s Taborn’s first disc under his own name for ECM, following on from inspired sessions with Roscoe Mitchell, Evan Parker, David Torn and Michael Formanek.

Featured Artists Recorded

July-August 2010, Auditorio RSI - Radio Svizzera, Lugano

Original Release Date

13.05.2011

  • 1The Broad Day King
    (Craig Taborn)
    06:16
  • 2Glossolalia
    (Craig Taborn)
    02:45
  • 3Diamond Turning Dream
    (Craig Taborn)
    04:17
  • 4Avenging Angel
    (Craig Taborn)
    06:56
  • 5This Voice Says So
    (Craig Taborn)
    09:44
  • 6Neverland
    (Craig Taborn)
    04:29
  • 7True Life Near
    (Craig Taborn)
    04:30
  • 8Gift Horse / Over The Water
    (Craig Taborn)
    07:37
  • 9A Difficult Thing Said Simply
    (Craig Taborn)
    04:36
  • 10Spirit Hard Knock
    (Craig Taborn)
    04:37
  • 11Neither-Nor
    (Craig Taborn)
    03:19
  • 12Forgetful
    (Craig Taborn)
    07:58
  • 13This Is How You Disappear
    (Craig Taborn)
    05:03
That album – a clutch of compact interrogations, unpremeditated but structurally coherent – reflects Mr. Taborn’s galactically broad interests, along with his multifaceted technique. You might hear flashes of 20th-century classical music: Ligeti perhaps, or Messiaen. You might hear echoes of Mr. Jarrett and Mr. Bley (amd ECM’s founder-producer, Manfred Eicher). In the album’s obsession with permutation, you might hear shades of electronic music. […] At the heart of Mr. Taborn’s enterprise is a fascination with pure sound. The album is full of moments where a note hangs sharply in the air, and you hear the gathering overtones, the vibrations of the strings.
Nate Chinen, New York Times / International Herald Tribune
 
Sein erstes Piano-Soloalbum bei ECM folgt ausschließlich dem Fluss seiner Gedanken. Und die sind so spannend wie ein Buch.
Reinhard Köchl, Jazzthing
 
“Avenging Angel” is an experiment in sound and silence. While brief melodic ideas underpin many of the pieces, equally central to the aesthetic is the actual sound – the reverberations of hammered strings, the oscillations, the durations of sustains. This is delicacy taken to new levels.
Steve Greenlee, Jazztimes
 
Listen to Avenging Angel a few times and, remarkably, the music becomes your special friend. Each piece imparts a different mood: I heard echoes of an old-fashioned children’s music box, quirky Eric Satielike minimalism, film noir foreboding, serene solitary meditation, liquid Debussyesque ripples, dogged gambols, stately resolve, meaningful wanderin – in other words the gamut.
Juan Rodriguez, Montreal Gazette
 
Chaque plage est un monde en soi, qui se développe à partir d’un infimematériau de départ. On se retrouve ainsi plongé s le son pur, ou entraîné dans des vagues de couleurs. On est confronté tout à coup à un monolithe hiératique, mystérieux et captivant. Puis on est ensuite saisi par des expressions romantiques avec tonalité et usage de pédale, ou encore bousculé par des tuilages d’événements sonores qui se télescopent. Les moments les plus captivants sont sans doute Spirit Hard Knock et Neither-Nor, deux pieces free d’une precision incroyable: écoutez les repetitions de motifs éclartés sur la première et la désynchronisation sur la seconde! Les anciens de chez ECM peuvent être fiers de leurs cadets.
Ludiovic Florin, Jazz magazine
 
Tabron has always been interested in the language of the instrument itself, the possiblities of its tonalities, spaces, textures, echoes, etc. The 13 pieces here, recorded on a gorgeous Steinway piano in Lugano, Switzerland, elaborate magnificently on all of those notions and more, without sounding overly ponderous or studied. These pieces range widely; each has its own motivation, form, frame, and intention; each arrives at a different destination. […] Avenging Angel is not an intellectual exerciese, it is a major contribution to the actual language of the piano as an improvisational instrument: its 13 pieces feel like a suite: seamless, economical, original, and visionary.
Thom Jurek, All music
 
Wie Taborns aktuelle CD „Avenging Angel“ beweist, macht er auch als Solopianist eine Musik voller Suspense und Drama, eine ebenso lyrischspirituelle wie rhythmisch packende Klangwelt, in der jeder Beat sein eigenes Leben hat.
Günther Huesmann, Deutschlandradio
 
“Avenging Angel“, a brilliant and unpredictable study informed by contemporary classical music as well as several currents of improvisation. It’s a sit#up-and-take-notice statement.
Nate Chinen, New York Times
 
Sein improvisatorischer Furor zeigt sich nun eindrücklich auch auf seinem neuen Soloalbum „Avenging Angel“. […] Die Platte zeugt in ihrer Vielstimmigkeit und frischen Eigenwilligkeit von einer Spontaneität, die Taborn bei seinem melodiösen, harmonisch und rhythmisch hochkomplexen Improvisieren nie im Stick lässt. Nie muss er im Trüben fischen. In jedem Stück geht er von einem überschaubaren Motiv oder einer Stimmung aus, die er improvisatorisch verarbeitet. So gelingt Taborn, was der französische Philosoph Roland Barthes der Askese zuschreibt: Aus einer einzigen Saubohne liest er eine ganze Landschaft heraus. Darauf bedacht, nicht auszuufern, verzichtet er aber auf episch ausladende Spannungsbögen, er konzentriert sich rigoros auf den Gehalt einer Idee. Dabei lässt er sich einmal auf minimalistische Klangmodulationen ein, ein andermal auf das Experimentieren mit fugenartigen Strukturen. Taborns facettenreiches Klavierspiel reicht dabei von perlenden Läufen zu wuchtigen Akkorden und Clusters. Dem Publikum bietet sich ein höchste abwechslungsreicher Hörgenuss.
Florian Keller, Neue Zürcher Zeitung
 
It’s Taborn at his risk-taking best, alive in glowing abstract harmony, explosive rhythm and attention to sound in its innermost detail.
David R. Adler, Jazztimes
 
Avenging Angel is much more private and detailed exploration of the sonics of the piano, but if that sounds like a scarily ascetic pursuit, Taborn’s genius (there’s no other word for it) makes a world of whispered, wide-spaced figures, ringing overtunes, evaporating echoes and glowering contrapuntal cascades as absorbing as if he were playing bebop’s greatest hits. Some pieces slowly evolve as sporadically tapped treble notes ring out against quietly jagged chords, some are keyboard-sweeping torrents in which jazz phrases deviously lurk and wriggle, some foreground high sounds struck so hard that the aim seems to be to purge them of tonality, while others do the opposite and lose themselves in subtleties of texture, echo and harmonics.
John Fordham, The Guardian
 
With his luminously fine debut for ECM, Taborn delves deep into his special relationship with the solo piano format, mixing up elements of jazz, contemporary classical syntax, avant garde sauce and that elusive ethereal poise which has become a stock-in-trade for ECM ever since Keith Jarrett made the label his home, decades ago.
Josef Woodard, Santa Barbara Independent
 
Loin de tout ego trip, le pianiste nous embarque dans un voyage au coeur de sa musique. (…) Ce premier disque en solo se situe encore ailleurs, dans une esthétique minimale, quasi ascétique, où l’improvisation fraye étroitement avec la composition en temps réel. Sans prétexte, sans faux-semblant, Taborn affronte l’exercice du solo avec une rigueur mentale et une clairvoyance des formes – un courage, même aurait-on envie de dire – qui lui évitent toute faculté, toute dissimulation, toute velleité narcissique. Loin d’être un voyage intérieur ou l’occasion d’étaler une quelconque virtuosité, cette approche solitaire dégage des espaces dans lesquels, travaillant les détails, reprenant une note, un rythme, le pianiste bâtit une œuvre souvent à partir de peu, mais dont la résonance et la pureté s’imposent à l’oreille. Ce geste d’improvisation débarrassé de tout superflu frappe par son engagement et la force simple de sa beauté.
Vincent Bessières, Jazz News
 
Texture and dynamics are the key to the success of the album […] He weaves small improvisations into thoughtful statements, not in a grandiose or bombastic way, but in a manner that allows the music and ideas to flow through him in an unimpeded manner. But he also knows hot to up the ante as well, building the music into swirling two-handed lines that show the manual dexterity he is capable of.
Tim Niland, All about Jazz
 
Ist das nun improvisierte Klaviermusik? Oder komponierte? Die Musik des Pianisten Craig Taborn entzieht sich jeder Kategorisierung, sie könnte genauso gut klassisch genannt werden wie Jazz. Sie hat die Freiheit von Improvisationen, zuweilen aber auch die strenge Form einer Fuge…
Beat Blaser, Aargauer Zeitung
 
From purely compositional standpoint Taborn is brilliant drawing from a sonic color palette that seems unending. The improvisational genius exhibited is striking, a musical exploration of the piano and himself. Adventurous. “Avendging Angel” is yet another jewel in the ECM crown of solo piano work. Taborn has now raised the musical bar not only for other pianists but for himself. A stunning release.
Digital Jazz News
 
“Avenging Angel” runs as broad as you might expect, lining up moods and rhythmic-melodic strategies of completely different orders: straight and processional, bobbing and weaving, staccato bursts and milelong notes. It contains improvisation, sometimes two-handed, and it lives on the intersection of a bunch of post-Impressionist western musical traditions. […] And so, finally, you can hear 360 degrees of his touch.
Ben Ratliff, New York Times
 
Ein Ton. Sonst nichts. Auf diesen Ton folgt nicht etwa ein weiterer Ton oder Stille, sondern etwas Unbeschreibliches, das man am besten mit einem Nicht-Ton beschreiben kann. Etwas, das mehr ist als Stille, das hörbar wird. So beginnt „Avenging Angel“. Es ist nicht etwas das tausendste Piano-Soloalbum dieses Jahres. Die CD beschreibt etwas, das in dieser Qualität noch nie hörbar gemacht wurde. Die Aufspaltung des einzelnen Tons in seine Bestandteile. Eine Art spirituelle Klangspaltung, die den musikalischen Augenblick auf völlig neue Weise manifestiert.
Wolf Kampmann, Jazzthetik
 
With conceptual specificity providing its distinct approach at a time when so many pianists are exploring the solo context, „Avenging Angel“ stands well above most. As exhilarating as it is serene, and as evocatively melodic as it is unsettlingly recondite, it’s a masterpiece of invention and evocation that places Taborn squarely amongst those other esteemed pinaists who’ve contributed to ECM’s pantheon of significant solo recordings.
John Kelman, All about jazz
 
Structurally, the set casts its net far and wide, taking in stealthy tone poems, spectral melodic themes and sprightly rhythmic carousels, but the overriding impression is that Taborn the musician is channeling many sources from both art and pop culture. “Avenging Angel” is essentially a triumph for its richness of content as well as its distillation of ideas and attention to detail.
Kevin le Gendre, Jazzwise
“Avenging Angel”, a powerful, creative and rigorously uncompromising album, is the first unaccompanied solo disc in Craig Taborn’s discography as well as the first ECM recording issued under his name. The album was recorded in the exceptional acoustic of the recital room at Lugano’s Studio RSI, with Manfred Eicher producing.

The disc follows several distinguished ‘sideman’ appearances for ECM, including three Roscoe Mitchell albums – “Nine To Get Ready”, “Composition / Improvisation Nos. 1, 2 & 3” and the recent “Far Side” – as well as Michael Formanek’s “The Rub and Spare Change”, Evan Parker’s “Boustrophedon” and David Torn’s “Prezens”. Taborn (born 1970) has been widely-valued for his resourcefulness as an improviser, in and out of the jazz tradition, since the early 1990s, when his work with saxophonist James Carter’s groups drew the attention of musicians, press and listeners alike. His own groups have since explored a range of options, and he’s also been at the forefront of experiments cross referencing jazz and electronics. In this regard his 2004 album “Junk Magic” (on the Thirsty Ear label), has been cited as a pioneering work, and Craig has repeatedly been voted #1 Rising Star Keyboardist in the DownBeat Critics Poll.

In the last few years, however, solo piano performance has become a priority for Craig Taborn. “If the areas of improvisation that I deal with are always ‘compositional’ in a certain sense, in this case a very focussed compositional approach is applied, rather than allowing a broader exploration to yield a result. Throughout this recording I’m honing in on specific details. The music is really improvised: I just start. But having started, I try to relate everything that happens, like the motivic or rhythmic and textural detail, to the initial ideas as closely as I can. In terms of my own playing I try to have things emerge from the musical material itself. And a lot of that can depend on the instrument, too [in Lugano, a Steinway D]: the sound of the piano itself and what it is generating. I’m interested in the history of piano music, certainly, but I’m not hearing the instrument quite in those terms. I’m experiencing it also as a pure sound source, very aware of the tones and the overtones and how the instrument is ringing. This music is not about ‘transcending the piano’ as much as it is about working with what is possible within it. ”

Amongst the album’s striking characteristics is the way in which Taborn balances density of sound-events and structural clarity. “I like transparency and I like the details to be clear. But I also like layering the sounds: I like a complex palette, multiple voices, multiple rhythms, but I also want to be able to discern things, including all the spectral details that come up. ”

Craig Taborn is on tour in May in Europe and June in the US playing solo concerts in the spirit of “Avenging Angel”. 2011 seems set to be a busy year for the pianist, and the solo concerts follow on from international touring activity with the Michael Formanek Quartet.
YEAR DATE VENUE LOCATION
2024 September 05 Loft Cologne, Germany