A month doesn't go by without a new record from pianist Marc Copland; at least it feels that way. And that's not a bad thing. Copland, by operating within the independent label arena and with a variety of companies, has managed to buck the normal trend that says an artist can't put out more than one album every year or two.
And Copland is one of those rare musicians who, by teaming with an ever-widening group of collaborators, continues to reveal new depths with each release. From What It Says , his dark duet recording with bassist Gary Peacock, to the more outgoing yet melancholic post bop of The Jigsaw , his quartet recording with British saxophonist Stan Sulzmann, Copland demonstrates an ability to mould himself with the people he is working with, while at the same time asserting his own style, which manages to skirt the grey area between the in and out, the dark and light, the bold and introspective.
Over the years Copland has been building his reputation as a most intuitive and sympathetic partner, but especially in context of the duet, a format that he seems to favour. Case in point: last year's outstanding Round and Round , which teamed him with alto saxophonist Greg Osby for a set that was filled with implication and an abstract yet appealing ambience. Osby, malleable as always, seemed to fit perfectly within Copland's musical universe. And it's clear that they both enjoyed working together because a year later we have them back together again for Night Call , a set that finds them even more simpatico. The wonder of discovery is replaced with a deeper understanding that can only come from spending time together.
This time around the material, again featuring five Copland originals, three Osby pieces and one standard, is a little more outgoing, a little more direct, but the emphasis is still on darker places. Copland's "Autumn Wind," with a repeating motif whose complexion is constantly shifted by Copland's reharmonizations, could easily fit within the Ralph Towner songbook. Melancholic without being melodramatic, it sets the pace for a program that is accessible yet operates within its own harmonic space. Copland has long since dispensed with his earlier influences of Evans and Jarrett and created a personal language that is all about contrast and paradox. What is remarkable about Copland's playing, and in particular his teaming with Osby, is how so much is implied with so little; one can feel a richer sense of orchestration with the barest of statements.
As before, Osby's contributions fit perfectly within Copland's world view, showing just how adaptable a player he is on a program that is as far removed from his collaboration with Charlie Hunter and Bobby Previte, the electronica album Latitude , as is humanly possible. Night Call may be more rhythmically defined than its predecessor, but it is no less elusive. Copland and Osby make music that engages without compromise, exploring the space where two players merge into a single voice.