Guitarist Michael Coppola’s newest release, New Impressions,
is a gem. With a crew of talented sidemen, Coppola has showcased his rare skills on 9-string guitar while also showcasing his compositional skills. On acoustic bass Coppola has Jim Andrews, on alto sax Tim Moran, and on drums Arti Dixson. A varied stylistic program provides the listener a good idea of the range of styles the musicians are capable of capturing.
The laid-back modal opener, “Movin,” immediately brings you back to Oliver Nelson’s landmark recording The Blues and the Abstract Truth. And Tim Moran’s alto saxophone has the soul of Nelson with the bop legato of Paul Desmond. I cannot say enough how I like Moran’s sound. It completes the groove that Coppola, and Dixson laid out in the beginning. Andrews’ lyrical bass shows his sensitivity to the mood while still showcasing his chops up and down the fingerboard.
“Ring Touch” showcases Coppola’s adroitness as a balladeer while Andrews’ steady time-keeping bass lines and Dixson’s nimble touch on the hand drums really completes a feel of ease for both the musicians and the listener. Be sure to also check out the smoking alto solo on a Thelonious Monk-influenced blues entitled “L.E. Blues” and of course Coppola’s solo 9-string feature “New Impressions.”
Later, Coppola opens up “Diana’s Day” with a lovely guitar intro on the right channel that eases into a slightly inhibited bossa nova. And the closer, Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmas Time is Here,” features an unexpectedly free duo interpretation of the Peanuts classic with guitar and bass.
Though Coppola’s biggest merits are as a composer and as a masterful handler of ballads, the members of this group manage to come together and feed off of each other while creating something beautiful. In short, these guys bring out the best in each other, and it shows in the music.
Personnel: Mike Coppola - 9 string electric and nylon string;
Jim Andrews - upright bass;
Tim Moran - alto sax;
Arti Dixson - drums.