Solo recordings have their risks and rewards. Risks, because the artist is laid completely bare, with nothing to fall back on but his or her own abilities; rewards because there is the greatest opportunity for pure and unencumbered expression. While Time Within Time
is not pianist Marc Copland's first solo releasewhich was the '01 Sketch release Poetic Motion
give one the opportunity to assess the continued evolution of a pianist who, quietly and without any fuss, is emerging as one of the most significant pianists of the last twenty years.
Part of the reason for this emergence has to do with the number of releases Copland has been putting out since '00. With Time Within Time
and his new trio disc with guitarist John Abercrombie and trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, Brand New
, representing his 12th and 13th releases as a leader or co-leader in the past five years, and new trio and quartet discs in the offing for later this year, Copland's exposure has never been greater. And yet, while he is as meaningful an artist as Brad Mehldau, for example, he remains in lower profile, without the same level of recognition. Time Within Time
utilizes a conceit familiar to fans of Copland's earlier Hatology discs, using multiple interpretations of the same tune to subdivide the album into chapters of sorts. On Haunted Heart and Other Ballads
it was "My Favourite Things; on And...
it was Paul Simon's "Old Friends"; and now, to tie into the "time" theme, Copland uses the Leonard Bernstein composition "Some Other Time." Copland's four readings demonstrate an increasing penchant for abstract impressionism, a characteristic that defines much of the recording. While the almost iconically familiar theme is never far from the surface, Copland surrounds it with more oblique harmonies and spacious textures, giving each interpretation its own complexion.
In fact, while Copland's reputation for lyricism and romanticism remains intact, in particular on his renditions of the John Lewis classic "Django" and Don Sebesky's sentimental "You Can't Go Home Again," elsewhere he demonstrates a more abstruse side. The original composition "River's Run" may be a blues, but it's so harmonically altered as to be nearly unrecognizable as one. And when Copland looks at two widely recorded classics, also bluesWayne Shorter's "Footprints" and Miles Davis' "All Blues"while he is clearly true to their essence, he liberally reharmonizes them, taking them both to darker places.
In contrast to solo works by Keith Jarrett and Mehldau, whose recent Live in Tokyo
included a twenty-minute stream-of-consciousness "Paranoid Android," Copland works more in miniature, never running the risk of overstaying his welcome. And, as much as improvisation is an unequivocal component, Copland always works within a structure. Still, he exploits, to great effect, the ability to be freer with time than is possible in larger group contexts; possibly the meaning behind the title. Time Within Time
is a rich and hauntingly beautiful recording from an artist whose eye is always on the core of song, and whose formidable abilities are always the means, never the end.