Marc Copland - Nightfall

Label/Year: InnerVoice Jazz, 2017

Lineup – Marc Copland (piano).

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Nightfall, the second outing of the year by the virtuous pianist Marc Copland, is a poetic and heartfelt solo recital that pays tribute to friendship and fruitful musical collaborations with longtime associates such as bassist Gary Peacock and guitarists Ralph Towner and John Abercrombie.

Along with renditions of some of their compositions, the pianist performs three of his own originals and also adds an astonishing take on “Jade Visions” by Scott LaFaro, a pure, melancholic waltz devised with smooth touches and emotional richness. It is exactly with this reassuring tune that Copland opens the album, running some descendent melodic phrases reminiscent of Bill Evans, a natural rather than slavish influence, and elegiac harmonies of subtle introspection.

A sublime musing mood is fully embraced on the nocturnal “Nightfall”, an original piece whose unstoppable one-note pedal delivered at a middle register works as a steady axis for the oblique upper melodies that float in the company of irregular yet intense low-pitched voicings. The sounds are very much capable of describing the post-impressionistic painting of Van Gogh exhibited on the CD cover (Starry Night over the Rhone).
 
Displaying congruous harmonic movements that are easier to interiorize, the polished “String Thing” gets closer to the song format, remaining poetic as its inner bliss pops out like lava from a spewing volcano.

Impressions of a luminous sentiment are absorbed on Ralph Towner’s “Song For a Friend”, an affecting ballad in minor retrieved from the 1975 duo album Match Book with the vibraphonist Gary Burton. Conciliating melodies and harmonies with a lyric precision, Copland is equally incisive with his left hand, working diligently on the low-toned edge of the piano.

While his “LST” gains a different dimension with no accompaniment, the pensive if searching “Vignette”, composed by Gary Peacock, is reimagined with a cerebral posture.

Copland concludes this session with a pair of tunes by the late John Abercrombie, taken from his 2013 ECM release 39 Steps: “Another Ralph’s” (originally written for Towner) doesn’t take any surprising detours when compared to the type of ambiance envisioned for the record, while “Greenstreet”, which could have been shaped into a regular hard swinger or a ballad, is mounted as a moderately fast, often-rubato post-bop excursion instead.

Copland’s first solo release since 2009 dives inward places of strange intimacy, becoming a consistently beautiful work. Throughout his musical solitude, the piano speaks volumes, resulting in a generous, dainty gift.

        Grade  A

        Grade A

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Jade Visions ► 02 - Nightfall ► 04 - Song For a Friend


Marc Copland - Better By Far

Label/Year: Innervoice Jazz, 2017

Lineup – Marc Copland: piano; Ralph Alessi: trumpet; Drew Gress: bass; Joey Baron: drums.

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Marc Copland is a tremendous jazz pianist with a special ability to create stunning atmospheres with unrugged textures. Having collaborated in the recent years with the virtuous bassist Gary Peacock (Now ThisTangents) and the late guitarist John Abercrombie (39 Steps; Up and Coming), Copland never turned his back to his personal projects, which usually overflow with melodic sensibility and strong rhythmic discernment.

The compositions included in Better By Far, his newest work, were skilfully penned to be performed by the same enlightened quartet that delivered the 2015 album Zenith, which deserved every accolade received. The top artists - trumpeter Ralph Alessi, bassist Drew Gress, and drummer Joey Baron, are experienced musicians who move effortlessly within the modern jazz environment.

The first couple of tunes, “Day and Night” and “Better By Far”, evoke the lyricism of Kenny Wheeler, acclaimed trumpeter with whom he joined in a trio that also included Abercrombie. Sometimes subtlety swinging, sometimes suspended in Gress’ loose rambles and Baron’s classy drumming, both tunes embrace a captivating erudition.

The quartet conjures up feathery sonic layers of scintillating beauty, whether they’re forging a disentangled, circumspect waltz such as “Gone Now”, or elegantly depicting grey landscapes smothered by sinister clouds like in “Dark Passage”.

There’s plenty of adventure throughout “Mr. DJ”, in which a daring rhythm invites to free improvisation. Here, we can hear Copland responding to Alessi’s poignant melodies through chordal sequences full of rhythmic intention. Also “Twister”, despite the ruminative and static posture evinced, follows a groovy conduct that encourages the musicians to opt for straightforward actions.

Proving that the art of swinging is fabulous and immortal, the quartet enters in that special mode when handling Monk’s “Evidence” and also “Who Said Swing?”, a playful tune in which Baron fires up a few instinct yet controlled rhythmic spasms.

Even actuating within patented structures and forms, Copland is all freedom and sophistication, preferring a beautiful time feel to complicated, showy maneuvers.
Indeed, Better By Far is by far, one of his best records.

        Grade  A

        Grade A

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Day and Night ► 02 - Better by Far ► 08 - Dark Passage