Craig Taborn - Junk Magic (2004)


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by Tom Johnson

Another slab of envelope-pushing jazz from Craig Taborn, one that relies heavily on the strong improvisatory skills of the band backing his keyboards and piano.

The result is a slightly more ambient atmosphere than one would normally associate with Taborn, but it does not come across feeling foreign or forced, possibly due to the presence of violinist Mat Maneri—whose own work seems to specialize in a similar, angular attack on jazz.

Often, the music comes across reminiscent of score work for a film—moody, dark, and moving, such as the opening minutes of the title track. In fact, it sounds straightforward for the first couple of minutes until a mechanized beat and keyboard beeps begin to overwhelm the natural instruments and the track takes on a more aggressive, even sinister, attitude.

Rather than sounding like a jazz album gone electro, it's the opposite—electro gone jazz, as if Aphex Twin (or, more fittingly, given his jazz-bassist skills, Squarepusher) paired up with some cutting-edge jazzers to cut something the IDM ("intelligent dance music") freaks could get into.

The jazz pedigree always shows through, however, so jazz fans need not worry that this is too much outside of their realm. Tracks like “Bodies At Rest And In Motion" can't hide their avant-garde obtuseness, even under skittering drum machines.

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