Were almost any other artist to put out an album called Some Love Songs, we might expect an album filled with saccharine sentimentality and syrupy romance. When pianist Marc Copland does it, though, chances are its going to be a lot more like the reality of lovecomplex and multifaceted, as bittersweet as it is tender, and as ambiguous as it is unmistakable.
For his third release this yearfollowing the interactive chamber jazz of Brand New and the hauntingly beautiful solo outing Time Within TimeCopland reconvenes his long-standing trio with bassist Drew Gress and drummer Jochen Ruchert, last heard on 2003's And.... If anything, the trio has become even more intimate and more finely-attuned to their individual and collective subtleties than on either And... or their debut, 2001's Haunted Heart & Other Ballads.
Copland's distinctive voice continues to be gentle and warm, but that doesn't imply he's lacking an edge or adventurous disposition. "Round She Goes"one of two Copland compositions receiving the trio treatment after being interpreted solo on Time Within Timeis dark, complex and somehow subtle and restrained in its intensity; in its own less than direct way, it demonstrates Copland's continued growth.
Pay attention to the left hand/right hand independence at the start of the track and his skill is clear. But, as is always the case with Copland, it's not something that jumps out unless you look for it. The song's the thing; and while everyone clearly has the kind of technique and stylistic experience to take the album's seemingly singular concept and give it a breadth of interpretation, they remain firmly committed to the material's essence and avoid ostentatious displays.
In deference to the more complex nature of love, the trio's interpretations range from a suitably melancholic reading of Joni Mitchell's "Rainy Night House" to a reworking of Richard Rogers' "Glad to be Unhappy" that retains the song's lyricism but introduces an unresolved air, fitting perfectly with its subject matter. "Spartacus Love Theme," covered previously by Copland on his 2002 solo disc Poetic Motion, possesses an inward-looking romanticism where the sentiment is crystal clear, without stating the obvious.
One of the highlights of Time Within Time was Copland's reworking of Wayne Shorter's often-covered classic "Footprints." Here the trio works with the same arrangementso harmonically altered that, with the exception of the familiar theme, its blues form is almost completely obscured. Like Copland, Gress and Ruchert are masters of understatement, creating emotional depth with the slightest of gestures.
Few pianists other than Copland continue to mine the same general territory yet consistently find new things to say. With some artists it's about significant leaps, with others it's smaller increments. Coplandalbum after album, year after yeardemonstrates gradual but assured growth; a remarkable ability to adapt his personal voice to a remarkable number of contexts and with a growing group of collaborators. Some Love Songs marks another highly successful step forward.
Personnel: Marc Copland: piano; Drew Gress: bass; Jochen Ruchert: drums.