Craig Taborn Light Made Lighter

On his first U.S. release as a bandleader, pianist Taborn avoids the pitfalls that mar many modern jazz albums: over-reliance on standards (only one, "I Cover the Waterfront," appears) and over-indulgence in the use of improvisation. Instead, he strikes a balance between these worlds with a keen sense of tradition tempered by a dynamic, freer approach to playing. Bassist Chris Lightcap and drummer Gerald Cleaver aid this dynamism enormously. On the up-tempo pieces, they play the foil: fast and loose to the piano's simple lines or precise and anchored when the lines fly up. If the album has a flaw it is the tendency toward low-key ballads, which interrupts the flow of energy at times. Taborn is careful not to stray across the border into candy land, but only just in spots. Overall, the album would be a good starting point for those who want a challenge but are still a little timid about it. (Thirsty Ear)