The prolific pianist Marc Copland continues the trend of high quality music that he and Pirouet release with two more immaculately recorded CDs.
Another Place features John Abercrombie (guitar), Billy Hart (drums) and longtime collaborator Drew Gress (bass), the same personnel found on Copland's Second Look (1994). Abercrombie contributes three attractive and effective compositions; his "River Bend" is interesting in that it gives a guitar-like arpeggio to the piano, with an almost African 12/8 underpinning in the drums and the "B section" is a 10-bar phrase that proceeds in a relaxed swinging groove. Hart and Gress make a good rhythm section and effortlessly bring out the contrast between the two sections. The guitarist's soloing here, indeed throughout the album, weaves melodically up and down through the sky of the piano and the earth of bass and drums. Abercrombie's "Car Blue Lady," one of the CD's most striking pieces, launches great solos by the composer, Copland and Hart over the hypnotic section of the melody. "Ballad in Two Keys" is his final piece and this time the first soloist is Gress, who sets the soundstage for introspective, emotive melodic improvisation. It is to Copland's credit that he provides so much space for his players (and composers). His accompaniment for both the solos by Gress and Abercrombie is so sensitive it also causes his own solo to be immediately impressive upon entry. Cole Porter's "Everything I Love" supplies the perfect ending, a friendly reminder that loose, relaxed jamming on a standard is a wonderful way for an audience and musicians to bond.
Night Whispers is part of a series of trio recordings, this one featuring Bill Stewart (drums) and again bassist Gress. One of the CD's features is that it contains three solo piano takes of Johnny Mandel's "Emily," spread out between the ten tracks. All three are relatively short (between two and three minutes) and offer a great glimpse into the working process of an improvising musician. For instance, one could look at "take one" as being somewhat Bill Evans-ish in its flexible, breathy phrasing while "take two" sounds as if "Emily" is being filtered through Chopin's "Revolutionary Etude". "Take three" brings the tune back to its waltz roots, with a pedal tone that makes this the most poignant variation. As on Another Place, Copland invites his colleagues to contribute original compositional work: Stewart offers "Space Acres" and Gress presents "Like It Never Was". The latter is set up like a passacaglia, a repeating set of harmonies over a descending bass line. The musical events that take place over that ostinato run the gamut from gentle block chords through a lyrical bass aria to a full trio crescendo urged on by Stewart's polyrhythms. Copland includes three of his own compositionsthe title track, "Scattered Leaves" and "The Bell Tolls". The latter starts with a single note on the piano and conjures the image of a tolling bell but also serves as a mid-register pedal point around which cymbals and brushes swirl, bass notes fall and upper register chords float.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: I Like You; River Bend; Dark Horse; Car Blue Lady; Another Place; Ballad in Two Keys; Everything I Love.
Personnel: Marc Copland, piano; John Abercrombie, guitar; Drew Gress, bass; Billy Hart, drums.
Tracks: Emily (take one); The Bell Tolls; Night Whispers; Emily (take 2); So What; Like It Never Was; Space Acres; Emily (take 3); Scattered Leaves; I Fall In Love Too Easily.
Personnel: Marc Copland, piano; Drew Gress, bass; Bill Stewart, drums.