Marc Copland: Solo and Duo
Gary Peacock/Marc Copland
There's a reason, perhaps, that Marc Copland doesn't get the acclaim he deserves as one of the masters of modern jazz piano. Copland's strengths are subtle ones that require careful listening. A deeply reflective artist, Copland doesn't play loud or fast or swing particularly hard. Instead, the 61-year-old lets a few well-chosen notes tell a story that a flurry of notes would only muddle.
Copland's latest release, Alone, is a quiet, extremely intimate disc of solo piano featuring an interesting mix of originals and covers, including three from the Joni Mitchell songbook. While Mitchell tunes have been widely covered by jazz artists in recent years, Copland reaches all the way back to her days as a hippie folk-rock goddess here for "I Don't Know Where I Stand," "Rainy Night House" and "Michael From Mountain." Copland illuminates Mitchell's simple, pretty melodies, adding more complex harmonies and glimmering chords to turn all three songs into something fresh and altogether his own. He also tackles Wayne Shorter's "Fall," Mal Waldron's "Soul Eyes" and offers a poignant, though nearly unrecognizable, take on Sammy Cahn's sentimental classic, "I Should Care." Of the three Copland originals here, a stirring 11-minute version of "Night Whispers" is the most memorable.
Copland is also featured in a duo setting with the estimable bassist Gary Peacock on Insight. Amid a recent flood of piano/bass albums, these two make a particularly strong pairing. They have recorded together frequently (notably on a previous duo album, What It Says and on three volumes of Copland's New York Trio recordings) and share an impressionistic approach, as well as a disdain for showmanship.
The 13 tracks on Insight include originals by both men, several freely improvised tunes and some well-chosen covers, including "All Blues" and "Blue in Green" from Miles Davis' most-famous album, Kind of Blue, a recording that featured Copland's most obvious influence, Bill Evans. "Cavatina," the haunting and seldom-heard theme from The Deer Hunter, is a gem, given a mostly straightforward turn here.
Throughout, Copland and Peacock play beautifully, creatively and seemingly without ego, never upstaging one another or indulging in unnecessary pyrotechnics. It's a sublime example of improvisation and interaction (that is, jazz) at its best.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Soul Eyes; I Don't Know Where I Stand; Night Whispers; Into the Silence; Rainy Night House; I Should Care; Fall; Blackboard; Michael From Mountains; Hi Lili Hi Lo.
Personnel: Marc Copland: piano
Tracks: All Blues; The Wanderer; Blue in Green; Rush Hour; River's Run; Matterhorn; The Pond; Goes Out Comes in; Late Night; Cavatina; In Your Own Sweet Way; Benediction; Sweet and Lovely.
Personnel: Marc Copland: piano; Gary Peacock: bass.