Dan McClenaghan | ALL ABOUT JAZZ
John: 4 ½ STARS
“A GENIUS….so alluring….completely lacking in pretense.”
Pianist Marc Copland crossed paths with guitarist John Abercrombie in the early ’70s, playing in drummer Chico Hamilton’s group. Copland was, at the time, a saxophonist. The collaboration there began a fifty year friendship and multiple Abercrombie/Copland collaborations . Abercrombie passed away in 2017. John is Copland’s eulogy for him, solo piano renditions of a set of his friend and mentor’s compositions
In 2018 Copland also released a tribute to another late partner in music, bassist Gary Peacock, with Gary (Illusions Music), a set that: …”just sort of rolled off my tongue, played itself,” Copland says. “With John, he continues, “I felt somehow awkward in the studio—nothing seemed to flow right. After a recording is done, to prepare for mastering requires repeated listening in order to select takes and decide the sequence. It was months before I dared listen, and then I’d turn it off in disgust, so unhappy was I with the results. After several weeks and many failed attempts I finally took a deep breath and doggedly went through everything several times. As the days went by, the fog lifted. I was kind of stunned. I wasn’t sure anyone would agree, but it seemed we had something special.”
Eulogies are a tough task (though Copland doesn’t say he considered the recording as such), and the pianist’s initial lack of confidence in the success of his effort is understandable. But in the end, he was right. He had created something extraordinarily special, perhaps his most beautiful solo album, in a discography featuring several gems of the genre—the previously mentioned Gary, and Nightfall (Inner Voice Jazz, 2017), Alone (Pirouet Records, 2009), and Poetic Motion (Sketch, 2002).
The sound of John is often solemn, but rarely sad—more a celebration than a lament. Copland’s effortless elegance and refined delicacy of touch are on full display, and a straight-through listen of the music leaves the feeling of having experienced a suite illuminated with reverence and wonder, and love. Copland is—and Abercrobie was—a genius at exploiting advanced harmonic ideas, expressing them with a disarming complexity/simplicity dynamic that makes the music so alluring, so completely lacking in pretense. Copland creates the loveliest of sounds here, for—and inspired by—an old friend.