Craig Taborn HAS set a daunting standard with his outings as a leader: 2004′s Junk Magic, for one, is a jazz-electronica masterwork that updated Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew for the 21st century; 2011′s Avenging Angel, for its part has been hailed for expanding the language of solo piano improvisation. Chants doesn’t detract from the luster of that legacy. Drummer Gerald Cleaver (who has known Taborn for 25 years) and bassist Thomas Morgan have been playing the vast majority of these nine Taborn originals for years now, and the resultant music scrolls out like a seamless series of surprises, with interplay that is earthy and organic, yet whirring with intimate, nuanced colors, like a pastel kaleidoscope.
Sometimes the innovations are spun off from a repetitive riff, as on “Beat the Ground.” Sometimes they roam into a journey, as on the 13-minute “All True Night/Future Perfect,” which begins with a classically-oriented piano solo and concludes with roguish intensity. Sometimes they coalesce, as in the gorgeous bass-and-drums engagement during the quiet “In Chant.” They can feel “avant-garde,” as during the delicate sonic crumpling of “Cracking Hearts,” or bold and insistent, as in the rousing closer, “Speak the Name.” This is not your grandfather’s piano trio; this is a shape-shifting music that snuggles into nooks and crannies of its own making.