Although the piano is my favorite instrument, it can be tricky for me to identify who's playing it. For most pianists, it may take several choruses before I can pinpoint their style or sound; it often comes down to a choice among several similar players. (Reading all those blindfold tests where even The Stars hem and haw, I feel freer to confess this critical fallibility.) In my experience, there's only a small percentage who are so distinctive as to be immediately recognizable. Marc Copland is one of them.
For me, Copland's signature harmonies and flow are the musical equivalent of Monet's "Water Lilies": impressionistic and calming. Not a pretty-pretty player (or writer), his music is reliably lovelyeven his dissonance has a peacefulness about it. His explorations convey an almost childlike sense of openness and wonder, so you can follow his wanderings with complete trust and no fear of ugly surprises.
Copland takes this new journey with altoist Greg Osby, his partner on Round and Round (Nagel Heyer, 2003). The two players are an excellent match, weaving around each other in friendly fashion, echoing and inspiring; perhaps Copland's early career as a saxophonist has given him a special ability to anticipate and support the flow of a horn. And while not surrendering any of his freedom, Osby's rounds his usual edges around Copland's pensive style.
Night Call includes five compositions by Copland and three by Osby, closing with a soulful take on Mal Waldron's "Soul Eyes," which fits in nicely with the CD's content and mood. Copland is a masterful composer, and his offerings, like "Autumn Wind," "Echoes of Another" and "Night Call," are highlights of this release. (The rising melody in "A Time Ago" reminds me of "Dark Territory," my favorite Copland tune so far.) Osby's work is a bit too abstract for my taste; your mileage may differ.
All told, it's a fine showcase for the players, and a meditative trip for the listener. While as the haunting title track implies, the CD has a late-night feel, it's also great music for a rainy day.