Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Craig Taborn – Junk Magic (Thirsty Ear, 2004)

In the upstate New York area there was a musician who went under the moniker “The Junkman” playing percussive music on old hubcaps and instruments of his own design from the local junkyards. Tabor’s idea of junk music is something altogether different, but still percussive – the use of electronic beats and samples as a springboard for improvisation. He’s joined by The Bad Plus’ David King on drums, Mat Maneri on violin and Aaron Stewart on tenor saxophone.

The title track opens the record with spare electronic piano and violin. With the entry of the electronics, a song develops which moves into up-tempo electronic improvisation. “Mysterio” Starts out with the electronics right off the bat and then adds sampled and remixed saxophone to the mix. The sampled saxophone and beats give the composition a fractured feel. Some heavy drumming by King propels the piece along as grinding violin and electronics join the percussion to create a hypnotic effect.

“Shining Through” opens appropriately with a shimmering synthesizer introduction which gives way to remixed piano, saxophone and electronic effects. This is a more spare and abstract piece of music that features some soundscapes of violin and electric piano. “Prismatica” brings saxophone to the fore, improvising over percussion, beats and synth. Taborn comps underneath and Maneri joins in with some violin flourishes. This becomes something of a collective improvisation, but it’s hard to tell how collective with all of the sampling and electronic beats.

“Bodies at Rest, Bodies in Motion” Starts off with a spare saxophone and piano duet, and then some subtle electronic elements come into play. Things pick up as bodies go into motion with electronic samples and saxophone improve. The record ends with the most abstract composition, “The Golden Age” which begins with an solemn and ominous violin and synth opening. Elegiac violin competes with synthesizer buzzes and echoed beats. The band creates a very abstract and experimental soundscape, somewhat reminiscent of the electronic experiments of Sun Ra.

This is an interesting record and certainly fits in well with Thirsty Ear’s Blue Series, which has sought to combine avant garde jazz and electronic music. This plays down the jazz chops that Taborn has shown on his previous records as a leader and sideman appearances with James Carter and Susie Ibarra, but it shows another fact of his compositional and improvisational ideas.

Rating: 7

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