Craig Taborn Junk Magic

Craig Taborn has the ability to mix pianistic chops with a litany of techniques in electronic sound manipulation. Having played piano and Moog synth since age 12, he is equally comfortable with the fixed pitches of the piano, and the variability of texture and harmony synthesised instruments are capable of producing. Junk Magic applies this duality to each of its participants. The first two pieces chart an extremely broken beat terrain — the title tune is all shifting rhythms and itchy keyboard textures. "Mystero" leans more toward drum & bass with some superb holdin' and hittin' by David King (of the Bad Plus). The groove-related content subsides a bit after these opening tunes, opening up more room for Taborn's analog and digital nuances, as well as his fluid piano runs. Mat Maneri gets his due on "Shining Though" and "Bodies At Rest And At Motion,” his bowed viola further treated by harmonisation, and his instrument's tonality blending into the Aaron Stewart’s saxophone. The percussive elements of these tunes may or may not be played live — the sounds are electronic, but the feel could be triggered by a kit — but who knows or cares? Either way, Taborn has harnessed what he wants out of the live musicians, his electronics and his personal sense of groove.

What’s the composition process for this album — do you start with melodies, chord sequences, rhythms, or sounds? All of the above. There's no one overriding compositional approach that I use in any regard whether it's electronic or not. But specifically with electronic music I try to be open with whatever presents itself, whether that is sculptural sound design or starting from more fundamental musical elements and developing from there. Because I’m an improviser, my process tends to be always about reacting to what the moment suggests in terms of process, even in terms of programming.

Is your approach to live electronics primarily that of sound coloration or keyboard playing? A lot of times I’m listed as playing keyboards but that’s just an interface thing. A lot of what I try to do is take performance aesthetics from improvised music like jazz but apply them to electronics so the sense is "how do I improvise with sound design?” I'm not sitting there saying "I'm going to play these notes” — that's not really the interesting thing for me. If you’re coming out of a jazz piano tradition and you're confronted with a synthesiser, the first thing you're going to do with it is play the things you know… I have a certain fondness for ’70s fusion as a sonic event, but I have an aversion to doing it that way for myself. (Thirsty Ear)