Craig Taborn – Junk Magic (2004)

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With Junk Magic, Craig Taborn issued another slab of envelope-pushing jazz — carrying on with the forward-looking theme of the Blue Series.

But by relying heavily on the strong improvisatory skills of the band backing his keyboards and piano, Taborn produces a slightly more ambient atmosphere than one would normally associate with his work. Yet 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 fans need not worry that this is too much outside of that 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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Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson has contributed to Blogcritics, and maintained a series of stand-alone sites including Known Johnson, Everything is a Mess and others. He studied both creative writing and then studio art at Arizona State. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Tom Johnson
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