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Marc Copland / John Abercrombie: Speak to Me

Dan McClenaghan By

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Pianist Marc Copland and guitarist John Abercrombie played together for the first time in the 1970s, in drummer Chico Hamilton's group. This was when Copland was playing saxophone, before his seemingly unlikely but very successful switch to piano. Nearly forty years later, the two artists still find opportunities for musical hook-ups, contributing to extraordinary recordings like Copland's Another Place (2008) and Contact's Five on One (2010)—quartet and quintet offerings, respectively, and both for Germany's Pirouet Records. With Speak to Me, the pair explores the more intimate duo setting.

In the hands of these two top level veterans, on their respective chording instruments, the harmonies are expansive and overlapping, and often luminous. Melodic lines are interwoven with shimmering complexity over the sustain and resonant glow of chords, giving the overall mood of the set a deeply pensive quality of interactive symbiosis.

Copland and Abercrombie each contribute three tunes. Copland's title cut is joyful in a beautifully subdued manner, leading into Abercrombie's more inward drift on "Seven." Copland's "Falling Again" explores more melancholy terrain, and the pianist's "Talking Blues"—reprised from his quartet date from earlier this year with saxophonist Greg Osby, Crosstalk (Pirouet)—is perhaps the earthiest segment of this beatific set.

Copland's recordings usually include a few well-chosen American Songbook tunes and/or jazz standards, and he carries on the tradition here, with a resplendent cover of "If I Should Lose You," and a brief but edgy take on free jazz pioneer/alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman's "Blues Connotation."

Speak to Me closes out on a note of perfection with Cy Coleman's "Witchcraft, " a tune done famously by vocalist Frank Sinatra, as well as pianist Bill Evans on his classic Portrait in Jazz (Riverside, 1959). Here, it begins with a wandering, translucent rumination before the melody coalesces into a jaunty groove, with piano and guitar taking the conversation to its conclusion in gorgeously nuanced fashion.

Track Listing: Left Behind; Speak to Me; Seven; If I Should Lose You; Blues Connotation; So Long; Falling Again; Talking Blues; Witchcraft.

Personnel: Marc Copland: piano; John Abercrombie: guitar.

Title: Speak To Me | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Pirouet Records

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