It's taken nearly a lifetime for British pianist John Taylor to receive the credit he's due. While still underappreciated in his own country, Marc Copland does seem to be pushing his way through the morass of American pianists to a position of greater prominence. With a discography that gets better every year, Coplandapproaching sixty, but looking a decade youngeris, with little fuss but relentless persistence, emerging as an artist of significance, with a leading voice and compositional approach.
Copland has had many great groups over the years, one being his longstanding trio with bassist Drew Gress and drummer Jochen Ruckert, last heard on Some Love Songs
(Pirouet, 2005). One of his best outside the piano trio format was the quartet responsible for Second Look
(Savoy Jazz, 1996). More than a decade later Copland has reconvened guitarist John Abercrombie, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Billy Hart for Another Place
, an album that retains the magic of Second Look
while reflecting the many changes that have taken place in the ensuing years.
In 1996 Gress was still a relative up-and-comer, though he'd already established significant links with artists ranging from Fred Hersch to Erik Friedlander and Ben Monder. Now an increasingly in-demand player, he's a leader in his own right, with 7 Black Butterflies
(Premonition) one of 2005's best releases. Here he contributes "Dark Horse," a soft-spoken tune with a deceptively simple veneer of ascending chords that, nevertheless, provides Abercrombie and Copland an opportunity to develop statements as much about texture and ambience as unmistakable melody. Copland, while retaining his signature ethereal harmonic ambiguity, builds a solo of unexpected and understated power.
Hartone of the busiest drummers on the scenebrings a personal sense of time and swing, always sounding like himself while allowing every group he's in to build its own identity. On the album's sole standard, Cole Porter's "Everything I Love," Hart's gentle pulse keeps things in the mainstream, while pushing and probing with a delicate but persistent ride cymbal that focuses the entire group.
But the real magic is the interaction between Copland and Abercrombie, two players who go right back to the 1970s loft scene, when Copland was still an altoist. Friendship and years of intersection have created a deep simpatico, allowing them to simultaneously lead and follow, with Copland's dark "Like You" dependent on their working through its lengthy head with the perfect balance of togetherness and interpretive looseness.
Even more atmospheric than Second Look
, the free intro to Abercrombie's "River Bend" succeeds only because everyone is playing with ears wide open. Still, there's a strength about Another Place
too, with the core of "River Bend" approaching folkloric territory with a firm rhythm. But even when an unexpected swing emerges, it's only a signpost, a rallying point around which the group can coalesce before heading into more rarefied terrain. It's a place that's increasingly becoming home for Copland, and in its accessible yet oftentimes gossamer-like delicacy, one deserving greater attention.