Now that Germany's Pirouet label is getting some much-needed distribution in North America, and is growing its roster to include a number of American artists who, while known and appreciated in Europe, receive less than their due in their native country, it's also time to have a look at some of its lesser-known European contingent. Tenor saxophonist Jason Seizer's Time Being
is his third release for the label, and the Pirouet program director continues his ongoing relationship with pianist Marc Copland, who has released a number of fine discs on Pirouet, including the first two of his New York Trio Recordings
, 2006's Vol. 1: Modinha
and 2007's Vol. 2: Voices
It's easy to hear why Copland and Seizer are so comfortable working together. Both work close the center, but bring an introspection and slightly left-of-center harmonic abstractness, even to a well-worn standard like "All the Things You Are." Still it's Copland who possesses the most sophisticated and personal approach. Seizer enters, with only bassist Matthias Pichler and drummer Tony Martucci accompanying him for the first round of the familiar melody, but it's not until Copland joins that the tune, while remaining firmly planted in the mainstream, begins to distance itself. Seizer's tone resembles that of Stan Getz and, like the late tenor great, he also favors a relatively spare approach though, like Copland, he's capable of pulling out the stops when the time is right.
Pichler and Martucci provide constant, intuitive support, and possess the ears necessary to follow Copland's lead into the freer, more impressionistic coda to "All the Things You Are," but it's the simpatico shared by Seizer and Copland that gives Time Being its greatest strength, and differentiates it from the plethora of mainstream records out there. Like his playing, Seizer's writing is more straight-ahead, and while the quartet rarely breaks a sweat, it does swing harder than the majority of Copland's own discography. Seizer's approach to writing and soloing is, indeed, more centrist, but Copland's distinctive harmonization of Seizer's relatively conventional changes on "Corrections" becomes something else.
Still, while it's Copland's compositions that possess the greatest distinctionthe dark-hued opener, "Between Now and Then" and even more brooding "Requiem," with Martucci's light, cymbal work the perfect dovetail to Pichler's spare bass linesSeizer does step away from the mainstream on the title track. The longest piece on Time Being, it reflects a greater depth and more evocative resonance as it provides some of the most striking delineated and collective improvisation of the set, gradually building to a soft climax only to dissolve, once again, to a near-whisper.
Time Being may be more about understatement than overt demonstrationthough Seizer does reach for greater expressionism during his solo on "Requiem." The album's appeal, then, is its delicate but ever-present interplay, and performances that draw in rather than push out. Time Being is a good entry point to the evolving musical relationship of Seizer and Copland, and an encouragement to check out where it began, with 2004's Fair Way.