JOHN – new release Marc Copland solo piano
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.