Dan Mc Clenaghan / All About Jazz

And I Love Her

**** (*)

In any discussion concerning the best of the modern piano trios in jazz, Marc Copland‘s name has to come up. Pianist Copland—who, oddly, began his jazz career as a saxophonist—shuffles trio mates often, having employed bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Paul Motian, and drummer Jochen Rueckert, and drummer Bill Stewart and bassist Drew Gress, in a sort of musical-chairs approach unlike that of other current top-shelf piano trio guys such as Brad Mehldau and Fred Hersch, who both employ steadier crews. With And I Love Her, Copland has again brought in bassist Drew Gress along with drummer Joey Baron.

The trio mates may change, but the dynamic remains the same: Copland’s gorgeous lyricism and shimmering harmonies, his deft piano touch and a feel for the perfectly chosen standard—or pop tune—to cover, mixed in a with couple of his own distinctive compositions.

The disc opens with a spooky and off-the-cuff sounding take on Mongo Santamaria‘s “Afro Blue,” covered most famously by saxophonist John Coltrane. Not a planned addition to the set, it evolved from the session warm-up, coalescing out of a rambling bass and drums intro into a dark-hued rumination. The follow-up, Herbie Hancock‘s “Cantaloupe Island,” from the composer’s Empyrean Isles (Blue Note, 1964), plays out as an engaging and elastic funk groove.

Bassist Gress contributes “Figment” to the program, a piece of exquisite abstraction which fits perfectly into Copland’s modus operandi. “Might Have Been” is a classic Copland tune, with a singable melody that sticks in the head, and “Love Letter,” written by the late guitarist John Abercrombie—Copland’s oft times collaborator—is recorded here for the first time (it was a regular part of Abercrombie’s live shows)—a time-stoppingly beautiful waltz which brings a relaxed joie de vivre to the set.

Copland loves a good pop tune—from Joni MitchellAntonio Carlos Jobim or, here, from The Beatles. “And I Love Her” is one of the Fab Four’s earlier, simpler tunes. The trio treats it with reverence, giving it a wistful, wee hours feel, the disc highlight with a harmonization that showcases the beauty of the melody in the loveliest way.