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Marc Copland: Crosstalk

John Kelman By

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After spending the early part of the 2000s in a recording spree that found him releasing as many as four albums each year on a variety of labels, Marc Copland has, since 2006, parked his piano with Germany's upstart Pirouet label. It's clearly been a fruitful pairing, with Copland releasing a variety of albums, in 2009 along releasing solo (Alone), duo (Insight, with bassist Gary Peacock) and trio (Night Whispers, the final installment of his New York Trio Recordings series). Copland has also renewed friendships with longtime musical partners, bringing back the quartet that released 1996's Second Look (Savoy), for another round on 2008's Another Place. Crosstalk reunites Copland with alto saxophonist Greg Osby, but this time for a full-fledged quartet that brings a different complexion to a clearly simpatico relationship explored on their two duo recordings, 2003's Round and Round and 2004's Night Call, both on Germany's defunct Nagel-Heyer label.

It's not just a first-time quartet record for the pair, it's the first time that Copland has recorded (at least under his own name), with bassist Doug Weiss, while it's been five years since he last recorded with drummer Victor Lewis. They're both inspired choices, working empathically with Copland's signature impressionism and delicacy, but adding more punch and fire than has been heard from the pianist since his quartet date with trumpeter Randy Brecker, Both / And (Nagel-Heyer, 2006), which, not coincidentally, also featured Lewis. With Copland sharing compositional duties amongst the group, in addition to a couple of well-chosen standards, the drummer's "Hey, It's Me You're Talkin' To" swings with a firm but elegant hand, Copland's harmonic ambiguity funneled through its light bop melody, his soft touch and motivic approach to solo development intact, but with more grounded pointillism than usual. Ditto Osby, a saxophonist whose own discography has ranged far and wide, always combining heady intellectualism with a deeper resonance, as here he builds his own solo of focused construction, working melodic fragments into lengthier, serpentine phrases.

Copland revisits "Talkin' Blues," first heard on another duet disc with Peacock, What It Says (Sketch, 2004), but this time this heavily reharmonized blues—another Copland signature—simmers and, occasionally boils over, with Weiss and Lewis pushing and pulling Osby during an incendiary opening solo. Copland's other two tunes appear here for the first time: the surprisingly driving and direct title track, grooves more viscerally than anything Copland's written in some time; and the more characteristically ethereal "Slow Hand," a brooding ballad that's a dark contrast to the free-bop of Weiss' angular but unfailingly swinging "Ozz-Thetic," where Osby and Copland work off each other, proving that time needn't dilute the strength of relationship.

"Tenderly," skirts the mainstream, but Copland's voicings keep Walter Gross' standard just the slightest bit off-kilter, as does the pianist's prismatic approach to the more bristling intensity of Gigi Gryce's hard-swinging "Minority." Copland's first release of 2011, Crosstalk speaks to the power of enduring friendships and the sound of surprise that happens when fresh blood is brought into the mix.

Track Listing: Talkin' Blues; Diary of the Same Dream; Ozz-Thetic; Tenderly; Crosstalk; Slow Hand; Hey, It's Me You're Talkin' To; Three Four Civility; Minority.

Personnel: Marc Copland: piano; Greg Osby: alto saxophone; Doug Weiss; bass; Victor Lewis: drums.

Title: Crosstalk | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Pirouet Records

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