Marc Copland: Growth Through Collaboration
Copland's open approach to every project and ability to work with a variety of aesthetics has resulted in strong working relationships with a number of producers. "I've found the producers for all the labels," says Copland, "to be extremely creative and flexiblewhether it's Sketch, which unfortunately is no longer around, or Hatology, Nagel-Heyer, Pirouet or Challenge. Ideas go back and forth a couple of times and then a concept usually crystallizes; and the nice thing about these cats is they are all very tuned into and dedicate to the music. I'd like to say that all labels are like that, but of course that's not true."
"Most times," continues Copland, "there's not a theme until the work is in progress. So the music can evolve and take shape, and in so doing dictate the theme or hook, not the other way around. For example, a typical scenario with one type of record company is they come to you and say, 'We want you to do an album of Cole Porter's music.' That's the project, and the music has to adapt to a preconceived concept; it can't grow, evolve, and create a concept organically. Contrast that with Time Within Time, a solo album that started out in one direction and ended up somewhere else. Between the first and second day in the studio, Werner Uehlinger and his wife Barbara listened to the tracks we had, and suggested the title. It made sense to me, and Werner asked, 'Do you want to do one tune a few times again, you know, your trademark?'and I thought, if the title is Time Within Time, how about Bernstein's 'Some Other Time'? I hadn't played this tune in years, but it felt right to do so.
"The great thing is that all the producers are really tuned into laying back and letting things happen," Copland continues, "only occasionally coming in and making a suggestion. Hein van de Geyn, for example, who produces for Challenge, is himself a wonderful bassist, and he's very knowledgeable. He does basically what all the producers I work with do, but it's interesting that, as a musician, he can make certain kinds of suggestions that other producers don't, and he's still very, very sensitive about laying back. But once in a while, he'll come into the room in between the takes, he'll put his second finger up to his chin and he'll say, 'you know I was thinking...' and that's when I know he's going to say something; and it's good to listen very carefully because, like all these guys, he doesn't say a lot, but when he does, it's usually something good.
"Jason Seizer of Pirouet, a great saxophonist, hooks up in a slightly different way," Copland continues. "We've played together on a couple of Jason's CDs and on a lot of gigs, so we have this kind of unspoken communication, similar to what happens on the bandstand. Jason can give me a 'heads up' with just a look or a nod, and it will be very helpful. He's great at hearing which is the best take, something that is sometimes hard to do.
"Frank Nagel-Heyer gets in there in a different way," Copland concludes. "We'll have long discussions about musicany musicrock, jazz, whateverand in tossing around different aesthetic ideas, we both get a sense of where things are going. He's very open to different kinds of thought, which is how we found a home for the duo with Greg Osby. That's a challenging ensembletwo cats, no bass, no drumsbut Frank could hear the potential in it."
On three earlier Hatology recordings, Haunted Heart and Other Ballads, Bookends and And..., Copland chose a song that would be recorded a number of times as a solo piece, with different variations ultimately book-ending the album and appearing in the middle of the program to create a feeling that the album is broken up into chapters or acts. "This is an example of a hip producer. Werner suggested that for the Haunted Heart album. He wanted merely some kind of introduction and some kind of epilogue. The recording session started at 6:00PM in New York after a flight back from Europe, so I was pretty spaced out. At the end of the session [producer] Art Lange said, 'what about the introduction and the epilogue?' The cats were packed up, and not being able to think of what to do, there was that moment of panic, and all of a sudden, the thought came that these tunes were some of my favourite things. So why not use 'My Favourite Things'? We rolled the tape, and did about nine or ten takes, and kept the best three.
"Preparation is a two-edged sword," Copland continues. "One wants to prepare, but it's nice to leave room for whatever happens in the studio. Take Brand New, for examplethe trio is coming from two different countries to a third country to record. Everybody sees the material beforehand by fax, but interpretations evolve on the date. Time Within Time was kind of the samethere was room for the idea of 'Some Other Time' to come up. If one works with people who are simpatico, both musicians and producers, all kinds of nice things can happen.
"Similarly, Philippe Ghielmetti from Sketch asked me on the spot to record 'Love Theme from Spartacus,'" Copland continues. "This tune and 'Some Other Time' presented the same problemBill Evans made them into signature pieces, not with chops, but with the trademark lyricism and sensitivity that made him the great pianist that he was. Attempting to record these pieces kind of felt like entering a church, and I was afraid of committing a kind of musical sacrilegehow could one do anything more than Bill did to touch the inner spirit of these tunes? In recording these tunes there was no point trying to do or redo what Bill did musically. The point was to get in touch with the essence of the tune in one's own fashion. That's what Bill did so well."
How Copland has used the idea of multiple variants of the same piece as a way to subdivide his albums is, perhaps, difficult to describe. "With Time Within Time there are three chapters, so to speak," Copland explains, "and each one has a particular feel. LPs had two sidesyou had to get up and turn it over to hear the second halfand each half had a thing, twenty minutes or so of a vibe. Breaking a CD up into sections helps get some of that effect back. On Time Within Time, 'Some Other Time' occurs four times to demarcate the three partsfirst in the key of C, then D flat, then G, and then in C again to finish. So the renditions form a kind of cadence in C. The key organization came after all was recordedit wasn't preplannedbut it seems to work."
"The organization of the album And....," Copland concludes, "was also not preplanned. I hadn't been able to decide whether to do three versions of one tune or not, or what the piece should be. I woke up the morning of the date and it hit me'John and Mike and Drew are my old friends, why not do "Old Friends?"' My wife, bless her heart, ran out and bought the CD, because I hadn't heard the tune in years and wasn't sure I remembered it correctly. It's a through-composed tune; the form is not so easy. She came back with it and put it on the stereo, and it turned out I had it right, but I felt better for having heard it again."
|"There's no cut and dried technique other than this: the desire, when playing, not to hit a single note or a single chord unless it has a certain touch, a certain blend, a certain feel."|