Jazz  Piano Solo
Marc Copland John - Piano Solo IM4005 CD
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FormatAudio CD
Ordering NumberIM4005
labelInnerVoice jazz
Release date13/11/2020

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      Over his long career, pianist Marc Copland has become known as a unique stylist, a harmonic innovator, and a gifted improviser with a unique sense of touch. Much of his recorded output over the decades has been in duos, trios, and quartets. Yet from his first solo piano outing, Poetic Motion (Sketch records), he showed the uncanny knack of successfully bringing off a solo recording while avoiding unnecessary pyrotechnics, making his primary concern that of bringing heart to the music. He was dubbed “the poet of the piano ” by Telerama in France, and Switzerland's Jazz n More put him on the cover with the words, “the piano whisperer.” Over the years, other solo piano albums followed Poetic Motion: Time Within Time (Hatology), Alone (Pirouet), and Nightfall (innerVoice Jazz). Then in 2018 came Gary, an album of Peacock compositions, played as a tribute to his longime bandmate Gary Peacock. Happily, the late bassist was able to hear and enjoy this recording before his untimely passing this year.

      John Abercrombie died in August, 2017. His passing robbed the jazz world of one of the greatest guitarists of the last half-century. Abercrombie was one of those rare musicians who composed and played music the way he lived his life---in a straightforward fashion, without pretense of any kind, and with a passion to explore, constantly striving to venture further along his own particular pathway in jazz. This guitarist composed like he played---seemingly simple and straightforward, yet full of unexpected twists and turns, a delightful challenge to any listener spending time with the music. But these twist and turns were never a slap in the face; they were rather a tap on the shoulder, a shared secret, as if to say “listen carefully--- there's more going on here than you might think.” His output of some two hundred tunes reflects a wide variety of moods and textures, but like any great art, his compositional style doesn't sound like anyone else's.

      If Abercrombie's passing deprived jazz of one of its greatest guitarists, it also left Marc Copland without his close friend and collaborator of nearly a half-century. Copland's long association with Abercrombie began with their appearance together in 1971 as members of Chico Hamilton's quartet, and continued through their last tour, in December 2016. They gigged and recorded over the years as members of each other's bands, and also as a duo. John's last quartet, with Copland, Drew Gress and Joey Baron, spent several years touring worldwide and recorded two albums for the ECM label.

      That's a very long association—a lot of music was made by these two gentlemen together. The mutual respect and influence between was about more than just the notes and the gigs; the two were close friends. “When we were both in our twenties, John was a tremendous infuence on me,” Copland says. “I met him when I was very young and ambitious, and his musical integrity, honesty, and disdain for the trappings of the business completely turned my head around. I saw immediately that this was a musician of the highest order, who simply wanted to make good music without letting anything external get in the way. I felt totally unworthy to play with such an honest spirit--me with my New York drive and desire to succeed. It was through my friendship with John that I came to understand: try as I might to ignore it, the values I saw in John turned out to be my values also.”

      This long and close relationship between the two players gives Copland a unique insight into the body of compostional work that John penned over his long career. Working with producer Philippe Ghielmetti and associate producer Stephane Oskeritzian, selections for this recording were made that run the gamut---from Timeless, the title track of Abercrombie's first ECM album, to Sunday School and Flip Side—from his last ECM album. In between there are pieces from a variety of projects in his catalog. Remember Hymn, dedicated to the memory of percussionst Colin Walcott, was recorded with Michael Brecker and guitar synthesizers; Avenue and Isla were written for John's duo with acoustic guitarist / composer Ralph Towner; Sad Song was played by John's quartet with violinist Mark Feldman; and Vertigo appeared on “39 Steps,” the debut album of the guitarist's last quartet.

      1. Timeless / 6:51
      Recorded on John's first ECM album featuring an all-star organ trio with Jan Hammer and Jack DeJohnette, this title track effectively put Abercrombie on the map, as Timeless became one of ECM's, and John's, best-selling albums. “John was very particular about this tune in later years, he really wanted the spirit of the tune to shine through...sort of a new-age vibe with some real meat on its bones.” Copland sticks to that original spirit while still finding ways to stretch matters through the use of pedal points and polyrhythms, as well as his trademark harmonic twists.

      2. Isla / 4:47
      The duo of guitarists Abercrombie and Towner mesmerized audiences and guitar players for years with their beautiful, almost orchestral approach to playing together. Here Copland explores the sense of solitude and space in Abercrombie's writing, especially at the tune's very beginning.

      3. Flip Side / 3:45
      A mainstay of the book of John's last quartet, this easy swing tune, built on the extremely common jazz cadence of II to V and the time-honored device of a “shout” figure at the end of each chorus, nevertheless generates an unusual sound because of the clever way in which the composer handles modulations and cadences into unexpected keys. Like many Abercrombie tunes, this one uses its own unique architecture; it feels completely natural yet comes in at an unusual length of 22 measures.

      4. Sad Song / 4:43
      Here, a deceptively simple progression to craft a ballad of heart-wrenching depth and mood. Copland, ever the master of space, lets the sonorities ring around each other, not playing too much or too little, for just the right effect.

      5. Avenue / 3:59
      A sprightly waltz that's a comfortable vehicle for blowing, Copland falls prey to the moment as he often does, and the result is an unpremeditated take with an unusal form: the pianist begins improvising immediately, only bringing in the melody when he's about halfway through the track---and then continues playing the melody, and around the melody, the rest of the way.

      6. Sunday School / 5:24
      A waltz with a bar of 2/4 thrown in, this tune still feels and sounds natural. The trademark of the piece is the use of an out-of-time chorale to finish each chorus, giving the composition a church-like feel.

      7. Remember Hymn / 5:56
      A heart-rending ballad, Abercrombie penned this piece to mourn the passing of his friend Colin Walcott, the original percussionist with the group Oregon. On the original recording, Mike Brecker plays beautifully over string-orchestra-like layers of guitar synths. The tune was suggested by producer Ghielmetti (as well as by Abercrombie's brother-in-law Gary Lefkowitz). Copland immediately saw this not just as a memorial for Colin Walcott, but as a very poignant epitaph for Abercrombie himself. But there was a problem: Copland felt overwhelmed by the textures and beauty of the original, which was achieved in part by the layering of multiple guitar synthesizers. “It's a beautiful track, and the tune is so deep,” the pianist says, “but I felt totally at a loss---how could I recreate all that sound with just an acoustic piano?” Producer Ghielmetti gave him advice that he took to heart: “Just forget about it.” The results speak for themselves.

      8. Love Letter / 6:49
      This waltz was a regular part of the book of Abercrombie's last quartet, but never found its way onto a recording; it was finally premiered on Copland's trio outing from 2018, “And I Love Her.” This pianist says that the piece is “really fun to play on, very comfortable, but like so many of John's tunes, the chord changes go to unexpected places.”

      9. Vertigo / 4:49
      From the CD “39 Steps,” an album in which many of the tunes are titled after films by legendary directory Alfred Hitchcock. This tune started the Hitchcock concept, as Abercrombie was surprised to find he'd written a tune 39 measures long. It features odd phrase lengths, bars of 6 mixed in with bars of 4, and then finishes each chorus with 8 bars of waltz time. Once again, this form feels comfortable even though the structure challenges the improviser to come up with something new to say. Copland points out that “John used to say this tune always kept him a little off-balance, hence the title. It took a while to figure out how to play on it without being a slave to the structure---while simultaneously honoring that structure.”

      Tracklist hide

      CD 1
      • 1.Timeless06:51
      • 2.Isla04:47
      • 3.Flip Side03:45
      • 4.Sad Song04:43
      • 5.Avenue03:59
      • 6.Sunday School05:24
      • 7.Remember Hymn05:56
      • 8.Love Letter06:48
      • 9.Vertigo04:49
      • Total:47:02