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REVIEW: Craig Taborn’s intense ‘Daylight Ghosts’ really stuns live

Craig Taborn, Dave King, Chris Lightcap, Chris Speed…this quartet is heavy on paper, really heavy on tape, and just gut-wrenching live. The intensity that they captured recently on the ECM release Daylight Ghosts doesn’t just translate well in the live setting, it packs even more power than the standout LP.

During the late show on the first night of their Village Vanguard residency, Taborn came out making jokes. He joked about how Chris Speed was there despite his wife giving birth very recently. He joked about playing with Dave King in the 80s. He joked about his own unproductiveness in the fact that he’s only released ~5 albums in his career. In hindsight, in seems that his ability to make light of his bandmates was some sort of mechanism in coping with the intensity of the music to come.

Over the course of the next 70 minutes, Taborn and company would play most of Daylight Ghosts, improvising nooks of the compositions that have so far received critical acclaim. It should be said that I liked the album, but was floored by the live show. It didn’t hurt that I was sitting 2 feet from Dave King, who threw on a phenomenal display of drum chops on his kit and on the electronic drum pads. Slow-burning tracks like “Ancient” and “Abandoned Reminder” reached bridge-breaking tension over time. Each player showed off his individual chops without overindulging in his own playing; the compositions remained the most important element of the performance while giving enough room for each player to feel free.

The Vanguard is hosting Taborn and his Daylight Ghosts band until Sunday. You should see it if you can.


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