Marc Copland – New York Trio Recordings Vol. 3 – Night Whispers – Pirouet PIT3037, 58:54 *****:
(Marc Copland – piano; Drew Gress – bass; Bill Stewart – drums)
This very ECM-ish sounding disc shares similar sonic territory to Tord Gustavsen, Marcin Wasilewski, and I Have the Room Above Her by Paul Motian. There’s also a bit of Alan Pasqua’s great disc, My Old New Friend. Simply said, it is among a handful of beautifully evocative jazz recordings released in the last decade.
One of the things that makes it stand out is the haunting romanticism of Marc Copland’s piano concept, on fullest display in the three quite different solo piano renditions of Johnny Mandel’s “Emily,” which naturally lends itself to such an interpretation. That Copland can find the heart of the tune and render it faithfully despite three unique readings shows both his killer technique and fertile imagination. The other standards, Miles Davis’ classic “So What” and Julie Styne’s “I Fall in Love Too Easily” receive equally inspired treatment. The first casually evokes the original while opening things up harmonically and rhythmically even as it adds mystery and more than a dollop of unease to the proceedings. On the latter Copland locates a vein of sadness beneath the song’s lighthearted exterior imbuing it with an entirely apropos longing.
The originals, three by Copland and one each by Gress and Stewart, shine as bright as the standards. The faintly ominous tone of Copland’s “The Bell Tolls” sets a somber, elegiac mood that carries through with Gress’ “Like It Never Was” and Stewarts’s “Space Acres,” reprising with the “Scattered Leaves” which betoken summer’s end and shortened days.
The playing on this disc is nothing short of remarkable. More an expression of musical democracy than a lead piano voice with sidemen, the band operates in a collective zone of uncanny empathy filled with dramatic conversation and striking triologic interplay. Drew Gress, who anchors the bass chair in The Claudia Quintet, one of the more ingenious outfits on the jazz scene today, plays with a deep melodicism that grounds the proceedings while urging things forward. Drummer Stewart draws equally from Paul Motian and Jack DeJohnette, with the delicacy and floating rhythms of the former and the polyphonic power of the latter. His subtle percussive coloration and deft fills provide the perfect rhythmic profile for “Space Acres,” while his driving, propulsive work on “Night Whispers” rivals if not surpasses that of a Jeff Watts or Eric Harland. But the real revelation here is Copland, who at one moment can sound as romantically beguiling as Bill Evans at the height of his powers and at the next moment rhythmically and harmonically channel Herbie Hancock (“Night Whispers”). His use of space, his precise touch, his unbounded technique (sounding like Jacky Terrasson after a few Spike energy drinks on “So What”) make him among the greatest largely unknown jazz pianists of the last 50 years.
Jazz may be music of the nonce but this recording is one for the ages.
The Bell Tolls
Like It Never Was
I Fall in Love Too Easily
– Jan P. Dennis