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Jazz musician Craig Taborn to create dynamic experience, paint pictures with performance

Courtesy of Jennifer Wray

For Craig Taborn, jazz is more than just a style of music.

“For me, jazz describes a larger body of African-American creative music that engages with improvisation as a central means to creating music,” Taborn said in an email. “Excitingly, the music that has been made under the influence of jazz is wide-ranging and far-reaching … for me, it is more descriptive of an attitude and posture than a style.”

Taborn is a jazz musician and lead artist of his self-titled trio that features bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Gerald Cleaver. The group is set to perform Saturday at the Wexner Center for the Arts at 8 p.m., four days after the scheduled release of its latest album, “Chants,” which received a favorable review from the New York Times on Friday and is set to release Tuesday. 

A pianist since age 12, Taborn said he got his first synthesizer and began creating his own music that same year.

“From the beginning, I found I was interested in making my own music and doing that often on the spur of the moment,” he said. “(I) was drawn to jazz because of the improvisation within it as well as the strong tradition of pianists.”

In 2007, Taborn was invited to play at the Monterey Jazz Festival. He said he met up there with Morgan and Cleaver to try out some music ideas, and shortly afterward, the group traveled to Europe to tour. 

Chuck Helm, director of performing arts at the Wexner Center, said the venue and discounted tickets are an attractive part of the upcoming performance.

“There are discounted tickets for students at $13, compared to $18 for the general public,” he said.       “And the venue is a hybrid of a concert hall and a club atmosphere. I’m really happy about the kind of special experience, and (Taborn) is happy with the way the room is set up. It’s kind of like a jazz club or cabaret setup.”

Taborn said the goal of the trio’s upcoming performance is to equalize the instruments in each piece.

“This group … was convened to explore certain possibilities with making music with the traditional piano trio idea, but that focuses more on sound and equal statements from each instrument, as opposed to the drums and bass supporting the piano,” he said. “We are all equal, and the music is written so that everyone can explore equally.”

Jennifer Wray, marketing and media assistant at the Wexner Center, said Taborn has done well in his performances at Ohio State. He has served as a backup instrumentalist to artists such as James Carter, Chris Potter, David Torn and Tim Berne.

“Craig has played here many times before, sort of as a side man with other performers,” she said. “But he’s been terrific here. This is the first time we’ve had an opportunity to have him serve as a leader of his own trio, and so that’s a great opportunity.”

Taborn said the main purpose of his music is to create a sound environment.

“This (sound) environment can tell stories, paint pictures, change or shape awareness,” he said. “Ideally, we are trying to create a stimulating and dynamic experience for the listener and are invested in making these experiences unique from performance to performance. Hopefully, the audience will be able to tap into this sound space and take something away from the experience that is useful or transformative to them.”

Tickets are available at the Wexner Center box office or website.

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