Lotte Anker, Craig Taborn, and Gerald Cleaver
Live at the Loft
On Live at the Loft, Danish saxophonist Lotte Anker joins two Americans, pianist Craig Taborn and drummer Gerald Cleaver, on a gig recorded in Cologne in 2005. Three long form improvisations (subsequently named via title suggestions from the audience in attendance) demonstrate the artists’ impressive capacity to combine spontaneity with an ear toward structural shaping and motivic coherence.
For example, “Magic Carpet” unifies around the pensive interval of a minor third. Anker’s keening sustained notes unfold into repeated iambic gestures under which Taborn creates a misterioso palette of diminished harmonies. Anker casts a progressively a wider net, registrally speaking, picking up the pace of her angular lines until, spurred by Cleaver’s increasingly overt presence at the kit, they build to a blurting fortissimo. After this first rapturous climax, each player takes a solo in turn, creating a whorl of intricate subsections. But the piece’s angst-filled inception, and its structuring around the minor third, is never entirely forgotten nor, save for Cleaver’s unpitched drum solo, significantly absent. It serves as an idée fixe that brings considerable congruity to these post-tonal proceedings.
”Real Solid” isn’t conventionally trad jazz in its outlines; but the piece certainly takes on a more bluesy cast than its predecessor. Anker’s tenor playing here is less penetrating; she darts through artful filigrees, deliberately blurs arpeggios, bends “thirds,” and ghosts notes. While still keeping the harmony on the edge of out, Taborn imparts his own riffs with a tartly postbop flavor, while Cleaver positions conventional fills in unconventionally syncopated parts of the measure. The swinging groove thus created is indeed solid; but the result is anything but commonplace.
At eight minutes, “Berber” is a bit more concise than the other material, but takes some intriguing twists and turns, moving from ad lib-expressionism to more ballad-like signifiers, include comparatively lush piano-sax dovetailing with a sudden flurrying of scales in thirds (!) by Taborn. Once again, the trio is not entirely willing to reach back from their postmodern vantage point to inside the pocket jazz. Given the excitement created by their deft stylistic juxtapositions, who can blame them? Thus, each Neoromantic gesture seems countered by a spate of ambitious avant-jazz barbs, creating a piquant yet fluid music that’s often marvelously wrought.