Craig Taborn's third ECM album, 2017's Daylight Ghosts, is a sophisticated quartet date that finds the pianist deftly balancing his exploratory, classical-influenced jazz with subtle electronics, avant-garde flourishes, and a robust group aesthetic. The album follows Taborn's previous ECM release, the 2013 trio effort Chants, as well as his 2016 project for John Zorn's Tzadik Records, Flaga: The Book of Angels, Vol. 27. As with those productions, Daylight Ghosts showcases many of Taborn's aesthetic interests, from free-leaning group improvisations to ruminative chamber pieces and languid soundscapes. Helping to flesh out Taborn's musical expeditions are the equally gifted talents of saxophonist/clarinetist Chris Speed, bassist Chris Lightcap, and drummer/percussionist Dave King. In many ways, the group works as a kind of modern creative supergroup given the presence of Speed, a Brooklyn creative jazz veteran and member of many ensembles including the Claudia Quintet; Lightcap, a longtime Taborn and Matt Wilson associate; and King, one-third of the maverick piano trio the Bad Plus. Together, they play with a deep sensitivity, backing the lead soloist one minute and interjecting a flurry of asides the next. It's a vibe Taborn exploits nicely on cuts like the angular "The Shining One" and the buoyantly fractured, Afro-Latinesque "New Glory." Often, Speed and Taborn play the melody line in unison for a time before diving off to swim freely under waves of King's skittering percussion and Lightcap's inquisitive basslines. It's a tactile sound that brings to mind the kinetic movements of a modern dance troupe performing to an Ornette Coleman tune. Conversely, on "The Great Silence" and his sorrowful reading of Roscoe Mitchell's "Jamaican Farewell," Taborn takes a more drawn-out and cinematic approach, framing Speed's mournful clarinet with delicate, bell-like piano accents. Similarly, "Subtle Living Equations" begins with a series of measured, harmonically rich chords, only to give way to an unmoored ending section in which Taborn drops sparkling shards of piano glass onto King's raw-nerve drumming. Elsewhere, he draws upon late-'60s McCoy Tyner on the title track and evokes an inspired combination of Kraftwerk's analog robot music and the '70s space jazz of Detroit artists like Phil Ranelin and Marcus Belgrave on "Phantom Ratio." At turns unsettling and haunting, yet rife with a brightly dynamic lyricism, Daylight Ghosts is an endlessly compelling, deeply imagistic album packed with Taborn's inspired musical juxtapositions.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar