Dan McClenaghan / Allaboutjazz
Music is magic in this group’s hands, and Marc Copland is the master magician – AllaboutJazz
Marc Copland is a former saxophonist who found his instrument artistically confining for the purposes of expressing his vision. So he called on his childhood piano training (synaptic memories intact) to make the switch to the keyboard. The results have been magic. His artistry with the 88s is second only to the late Bill Evans, and an argument for his surpassing of Evans could be made. His discography boasts more than forty albums as a leader, beginning in 1988 with My Foolish Heart (JazzCity), but his profile rose steeply when he connected with Pirouet Records, on the trio outing Some Love Songs (2005), and his triptych of New York Trio Albums for the label: Vol.1 Modinha (2006), Vol. 2 Voices (2007), and Vol. 3 Night Whispers (2009), with a musical chairs shuffle of all-star trio mates.
The bottom line: Marc Copland is probably best known for his trio work. With the possible exception Bill Evans, nobody has consistently worked the format with such finesse and success, with such a deft subtlety of touch and harmonic depth, and created such stunning beauty.
But Copland’s work with horn men should not be overlooked. Trumpeters Ralph Alessi, Randy Brecker and Tim Hagan, as well as saxophonists Greg Osby and Dave Liebman, have contributed their artistry to Copland’s recordings. Now, with Someday, Copland enlists saxophonist Robin Verheyen, in a quartet outing that includes veteran bassist Drew Gress and drummer Mark Ferber. Considering the previously-mentioned Pirouet releases, this is less identifiable as an allstar affair. Drummer Ferber and saxophonist Verheyan do not have the high-end profiles of Copland’s previous recording mates like bassist Gary Peacock or guitarist John Abercrombie or drummer Paul Motian. But all three are both locked into Copland’s vision of how things should sound—the elasticity of melody, the fluid spontaneity, the zest for surprises and the embrace of beauty. The result: one of Copland’s finest efforts, and certainly his best quartet outing to date.
The disc opens with the familiar “Someday My Prince Will Come.” Copland sidles into the melody as if it is something sacred. Verhetyan follows him there, opening the church doors for Gress and Ferber, who join in the creation of a four-way prayer, hushed and reverent. The Copland original “Spinning Things” follows, featuring edgy four-way interplay. Ferber’s drum work leans toward the unorthodox, with an approach that brings -way prayer, hushed and reverent. The Copland original “Spinning Things” follows, featuring edgy four-way interplay. Ferber’s drum work leans toward the unorthodox, with an approach that brings Paul Motian and Jon Christensen to mind. Copland’s solo floats on a cloud. His touch here is unaffected by gravity, delicate and flowing, lighter than air, as it always is on his solo projects—the terrific Nightfall (InnerVoiceJazz, 2017) and breathtaking John (Illusions Mirage, 2020).
“Dukish” was written by Verheyen. It is a tribute to Duke Ellington, with the author blowing in the tenor sax’s higher register with a gentle touch, taking alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges‘ chair inside a spare arrangement.
Included also are two more standards—Thelonious Monk‘s “Let’s Cool One,” which sounds as if it was a lot of fun to play, and the closer, Miles Davis‘ “Nardis,” with Verheyen bringing Ben Webster to mind.
The keys that open the door to welcome this album to the status of Copland’s Best Quartet set: Gress, Verheyen and Ferber’s flexibility and compatibility with Copland’s long-established concept of finessed beauty featuring memorable melodies embedded in washes of harmonic depth with their sideman immersions into the leader’s magic.