Reviews 2016 - Marc Copland Zenith

"every one of the six compositions sounds fresh, new, and infinitely deep."

 

Marc Copland’s ‘Zenith’ frees jazz with intentional feeling

AXS Contributor

JUn 30th, 2016

by Carol Banks Weber

 

Marc Copland’s ‘Zenith’ frees jazz with intentional feeling

 

From the first note of Marc Copland’s “Sun At The Zenith,” it’s clear this is no ordinary jazz quartet replicating standards. There is one exceptional standard by Duke Ellington covered by the pianist with trumpeter Ralph Alessi, drummer Joey Baron, and double-bassist Drew Gress. Yet, every one of the six compositions sounds fresh, new, and infinitely deep.

 

Perhaps it’s the quality of tone on Alessi’s trumpet, as he makes it speak, and occasionally wail to the near-breaking point, in his conversational solo at the top of the hour on the first track. Or how about the way Gress floats his bass just slightly above Copland’s barely-there melodic R&B train of thought in the next tune, “Mystery Song,” both on the verge of breaking away into a full abstract condensation.

 

When Alessi and Copland merge their trumpet and piano on the same wavering wavelength before an awesome piano then trumpet solo takes hold, Ellington’s “Mystery Song” becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

 

In the improvised quartet piece, “Air We’ve Never Breathed,” there’s a lot of hurry up and wait going on in the cadence, the dynamics, and the interplay. Copland holds the improvisational piece together, providing the safety net of his prodding, stable time cues, so Alessi can explore the higher reaches of interpretation.

 

Zenith is Copland’s inaugural March release on his new record label, InnerVoice Jazz. His quartet is made up of his longtime bassist and drummer, and the final addition of trumpeter Alessi taking over a lot of the catchy narrative throughout this six-track romp.

 

If Copland’s group sounds deeper, better than the average straight-ahead jazz quartet, it’s intentional. That’s been the pianist’s goal, to combine access with a new touch. In a June 2016 DownBeat interview with Bill Milkowski, Copland explained his mantra: “The access is pretty much there most of the time, but the test is are you getting into new territory. If you’re playing a little bit differently than you did a year or two ago, then something good is happening. You’re trying to develop what you’re doing and expand the places that the music can go, which involves expanding the capabilities of the musical tools, in part.”

 

Each one of the musicians in Copland’s quartet goes the extra mile to extract deeper meaning than a 4/4 send-off. “It helps when everybody listens first, and that certainly happens in the bands I’m spending most of my time with now, which is the Zenith band, Gary Peacock’s trio and John Abercrombie’s quartet. That’s a common feature among all those groups. As musicians we want to leave space. That’s a sound that’s been inside my head from the very beginning. At any recording or gig I play, I try to establish that sound and use of space, and listening is the first step with that. And if everybody isn’t doing that, it can’t happen,” Copland continued in the interview. “But if everybody’s listening and responding to each other and to the sonic environment, then with the piano one can set the musical stage so that harmony and melody and rhythm can interact among the players in a certain way. And when that happens, then it’s very easy to start to go beyond the notes.”

 

Marc Copland’s Zenith goes beyond straight-ahead jazz and rides the entry to abstract free jazz with a purpose: to provide measured tones, textures, and depth of feeling with every sound byte.

 

 

REVIEWS 2016 - BOBBY AVEY

 INHUMAN WILDERNESS

 

Irish Times

Jun 30th, 2016

 by Cormac Larkin

 

Bobby Avey - Inhuman Wilderness album review: fearless, exhilarating, multilayered

 

Album:

Inhuman Wilderness

 

Artist:

Bobby Avey

 

Label:

Innervoice Jazz

 

Genre:

Jazz

 

New York pianist Bobby Avey is a musician on several missions. As an improviser, he is fearless, prepared to face the unknown (and even sometimes the downright ugly) in search of his own sound.

 

As a composer, he creates dramatic, multilayered tunes which twist and turn rhythmically, inspired by Haitian Vodou drumming. And as a leader now on his fifth solo release, he has an astute ear for other musicians, notably here rising saxophonist John Gallagher.

 

But if the music is fresh and unexpected, the force and commitment of the pianist’s worldview is similarly impressive: titles such as Rent the Sky (about the US drone campaign) or Countless Voices of Unknown People (a Howard Zinn quote) add meaningful, unsettling layers to already challenging, exhilarating music. State-of-the-jazz art.

 

innervoicejazz.com


Downbeat

June 5th, 2016

by Bill Milkowski

 

INDIE LIFE
Beyond the Notes By Bill Milkowski / Photo by Guido Werner

In his prodigious output as a leader (more than 40 albums to date) and as a highly valued sideman (Gary Peacock Trio, John Abercrombie Quartet), Marc Copland always seeks a place in the music that takes him somewhere beyond the notes.

“For music to really fulfill its function as an art form, it has to get beyond the notes, just as painting has to get beyond the colors,” the pianist-composer maintains. “These things are all tools that enable the art form in question to move the listener and make an experience that’s deeply resonating, both in musical and extra-musical ways. All those tools are important, but at a certain point it’s about what is this art saying at another level. The musicians whom most listeners would recognize as artists like that—John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock— they all had that. And at certain points in their careers, it all coalesces and it’s very clear that they’re sending a very strong message, both with the innovative tools that their music uses and with what they’re trying to say beyond the notes.”

Over the years, Copland—who studied under the great Lennie Tristano at Columbia University—has trained himself to access that rarefied space more quickly, whether it’s in solo, duo, trio or quartet settings. “The access is pretty much there most of the time, but the test is are you getting into new territory. If you’re playing a little bit differently than you did a year or two ago, then something good is happening. You’re trying to develop what you’re doing and expand the places that the music can go, which involves expanding the capabilities of the musical tools, in part.”

On Copland’s album Zenith (see “CD Reviews,” page 71), released on his own newly established InnerVoice Jazz label, he and his longstanding telepathic rhythm tandem of bassist Drew Gress and drummer Joey Baron explore new territory with trumpeter Ralph Alessi, for whom he has particularly high praise. “When I heard Ralph’s [2013 album] Baida, something clicked in my head,” Copland explains. “I felt I was listening to someone with real depth, both as a composer and as a player. And as soon as we hit together, it was very easy. He just jumped right in. He totally gets what I’m trying to do and what we’re trying to do as a rhythm section, and he brings his own perspective to it.

“I think clarity is a really good word to describe what Ralph does,” Copland continues. “Chops, to me—and I tell this to students—are meaningless. It’s nice to have them, but if you’re not saying anything, what good are they? Clarity is good; meaning is good. Then if you can enhance that with chops, fine. But the danger is always that someone will get seduced by chops for chops’ sake. And to me, music is not about that. Music is about going to another place.”

The key for this empathetic quartet, and every musical situation that Copland finds himself in these days, is listening.
“It helps when everybody listens first, and that certainly happens in the bands I’m spending most of my time with now, which is the Zenith band,
Gary Peacock’s trio and John Abercrombie’s quartet. That’s a common feature among all those groups. As musicians we want to leave space. That’s a
sound that’s been inside my head from the very beginning. At any recording or gig I play, I try to establish that sound and use of space, and listening
is the first step with that. And if everybody isn’t doing that, it can’t happen. But if everybody’s listening and responding to each other and to the sonic environment, then with the piano one can set the musical stage so that harmony and melody and rhythm can interact among the players in a certain way. And when that happens, then it’s very easy to start to go beyond the notes.”
While Copland has previously recorded for the Pirouet, hatology, SteepleChase, Savoy, Challenge and Sketch labels, forming his own InnerVoice Jazz will allow him to go even further in his search for that place beyond the notes.
“I’ve been very fortunate in my career to work with quite a few different producers, as a leader and as a sideman, and they’ve all been great. Having
the label is an opportunity to put some of what I’ve learned to good use and to let the music take another direction. It’s an issue of having another outlet. Right now I’m kind of associated with ECM because John’s band and Gary’s band are on that label, which is a fabulous label with a great producer, obviously. But again, it’s like when you play with different musicians: It enables you to sometimes take the music to a slightly new or different place. So this experience of having my own label feels to me kind of the same. It’s not to replace working with other labels and other producers; it’s to enhance and supplement.”               

 

Since his recording debut in 2006 with reed master Dave Liebman ("Vienna Dialogues"), pianist and composer Bobby Avey has built quite an impressive resumé.  He won the Thelonious Monk Composition in 2011, just months after releasing his first CD as a leader. Also in 2011, he won a grant from Chamber Music America to travel to Haiti to research and record a Vodou Ceremony.  The upshot of that journey was the brilliant collection of pieces that make up the 2014 Whirlwind Recording "Authority Melts From Me."  He's also recorded a set of solo pieces recorded after "Authority.." but released before it on a CD titled "Be Not So Long to Speak." Avey now tours with Liebman's Expansions band and subs for Matt Mitchell in Rudresh Mahanthappa's Bird Calls.

"Inhuman Wilderness" is his new album.  Issued on pianist Marc Copland's InnerVoiceJazz label, the 8 tracks, composed by Avey, is  his creative reaction to how man treats his fellow man as well as how man ignores environmental warnings.  Whereas he does not use the album jacket or his website to voice his feelings, it comes out in the powerful music on the CD.  Featuring his long-time rhythm section of Thomson Kneeland (bass) and Jordan Perlson (drums) plus John O'Gallagher (alto saxophone on four tracks), there is such an urgency in this material that it can not be ignored.  Perlson's chattering drums leads off the first cut "Countless Voices of Unknown People" - the music takes a while to build but then the "alarming" sounds of the piano using about the hip hop beat take over, circular phrases repeated over and over, that the listener is on edge.

O'Gallagher join the fray for "Fall Not a Tear", his insistent alto sax rising high above the powerful rhythms created by the trio.  Their shifting rhythms also have a nervous quality that dissipate in the middle of the piece as the music gets introspective before Avey joins in an interaction with Kneeland and then Perlson.  The roiling left hand and rampaging drums that open "Land Theft"give way to the bowed bass, splashy high hat and ominous low note and then to the powerful attack of Perlson; it's all done in 102 seconds but not before stunning the listener.

The solo piano track, "Rent The Sky", is a dissonant ballad that starts quietly, much like a storm building on a muggy summer afternoon.  Soon, the tolling chords begin to pierce the speakers, the rumbling bass notes creating a thunder-like foundation.  The storm rolls through quickly, the music slows and fades to silence which, dramatically, lasts for nearly 20 seconds.

It is hard not to highlight each track on "Inhuman Wilderness" as each one carries such strength. Even the title cut, an extremely quiet excursion for quartet, has power as if one was walking late at night after a tornado has laid waste to his neighborhood.  Does the pianist/composer have hope for the world?   The music of the final track, "Composure Must Be Rare", is soft nearly all the way through before rising to a powerful peak, only to drop down to cymbal sounding over a piano note. The ominous chords have disappeared, the saxophone is less strident and we land, gently, far from the discontent of the opening track.  Dramatic music for a dramatic time, challenging the listener to take action - how impressive. Bobby Avey has been an impressive musician since his first recordings and he is quickly maturing into a major force on the contemporary music stage.

For more information, go to www.bobbyavey.com.  The CD will be released on June 24 2016.

Here's the opening track:

https://soundcloud.com/fullyaltered/bobby-avey-countless-voices-of-unknown-people

 


Ottawa Citizen

March 24th, 2016

by Peter Hum

 

Marc Copland CD reviewed

Jazz pianist Marc Copland

Jazz pianist Marc Copland Konstantin Kern

Zenith (InnerVoice Jazz)
Marc Copland

On pianist Marc Copland’s new disc Zenith, the simpatico between him and trumpeter Ralph Alessi is so striking that I had to ask Copland just how much playing the two of them had done together previously.

I’d thought that their music-making history was negligible, and it turned out that I was right. “Ralph and I played together up here some years ago, just the two of us,” Copland wrote me back. “It was fun but didn’t really stick with me. My bad.

“Then I heard Baida,” — that’s Alessi’s 2013 album on ECM — “and I felt very strongly that I was listening to somebody with a big heart and a real musical intelligence,” Copland continued.

“So I called him and sounded him, and he said sure, he’d like to do something. The hookup was immediate. What a player and composer…..he gets it, totally.”

Factor in the splendid playing by bassist Drew Gress and drummer Joey Baron along with the quick connection between Alessi and Copland and the result is some outstanding music. Released this month, Zenith belongs in that special category of jazz discs that are gorgeous on their own terms.

Since the late 1980s, Copland, now 67, has been one of jazz piano’s great harmonic explorers. Whether he’s delving into his own compositions or interpreting standards, Copland has an immense range of colourful chords at his fingertips. His playing is always deeply intriguing yet lyrical. Meanwhile, Alessi, who is a decade and a bit younger than Copland, has his own ways of manoeuvring through or coming at angles to a song’s given harmonies, and the surprising variations of his sound, from pure to raspy, with many gradations in between, add a welcome extra dimension to the music.

Throughout the disc’s six tracks, Copland and Alessi relish the opportunity to get in there and wrestle at length with the guts of each piece to create vibrant, real-time music. Indeed, it sounds as if Copland, Alessi, Gress and Baron went into the studio, turned the taps to their maximum and let the creativity flow.

The five Copland compositions on the disc are full of unique details, with shapely melodies dovetailing with bass lines and mood-altering harmonies holding court. 

The album opens with Sun at the Zenith, a slow, patient piece that swells in intensity until it glows. Next comes a rendition of Duke Ellington’s Mystery Song, transported from its Cotton Club origins and reconfigured into a luscious, open, quasi-calypso.

The disc’s second act stresses free playing. Air We’ve Never Breathed, credited as a composition by all four musicians, must be a free improvisation. Even so, it seems almost plotted, if not composed, because the feelings of intention, listening and common purpose are so strong. Over its 14 minutes, the track moves from a duet for bass and muted trumpet to a passage for skittering piano and drums before switching gears repeatedly, becoming reflective and then jaunty and the urgently charged. And just when you think the music is going to find its point of rest, Baron prolongs matters with some cymbal work that leads to a sad and proper denouement.

Waterfalls, which follows, is a concise, knotty theme that launches some rugged, swinging free-bop. Best Bet is a plaintive waltz that puts everyone on their prettiest behaviour. 

The disc’s last track, Hurricane, is another tune in three, but it’s broader, more rolling in its feel, and ultimately surging and exciting. On this piece, during and after the bold, swirling solos by Alessi and Copland, Baron offers his most splashy, exuberant playing of the set.

The trio of Copland, Gress and Baron have appeared on record before, on the 2013 ECM record 39 Steps by guitarist John Abercrombie. That record, while lovely, was more subdued than the expansive, questing Zenith, which is the debut disc on Copland’s own label. This maiden release on InnerVoice Jazz sets the bar very, very high, and it will be a delight to see if subsequent releases can match or surpass it.

phum@postmedia.com
twitter.com/peterhum
ottawacitizen.com/jazzblog

Jazz thing

March 18th, 2016

by Reinhard Köchl

To have one's own record label, better control, and maximum artistic freedom: now Marc Copland has become part of a trend jazz musicians have discovered for themselves. Following on the heels of his pianistic feats on Gary Peacock's ECM trio album “Now This,” with the debut of his InnerVoice Jazz label the introverted New Yorker reveals an unexpected facet of his virtuosity. In the company of the famous Joey Baron (drums), Drew Gress (bass) and Ralph Alessi (trumpet), Copland masterfully dances back and forth between impressionism and expressionism, idling in neutral and pushing ahead, free and bop playing, lyric melancholy and an elegant funkiness. It's fascinating how all the spaces in these compositions open for each instrument, even for the bass, as if in the shape of a fan—as in “Air We've Never Breathed,” but also in Ellington's “Mystery Song.” If Alessi worked in recent European concerts rather like a satellite thrown from its orbit, his horn on this CD lends an unusual rough, thrilling narrative mark to the refined and mysterious ensemble sound. In between it, before it, behind it, besides or under it: there is Marc Copland, at 67 clearly at the height of his creative powers.

 

Stereophile

March 17th, 2016

by Fred Kaplan

 

 

Marc Copland’s Zenith

 

 

image: http://cdn.stereophile.com/images/styles/600_wide/public/031716-Zenith-600.jpg?itok=ZWpH3yIK

Until Zenith, the first release on his own label, Inner Voice Jazz, pianist Marc Copland had never played with trumpeter Ralph Alessi, but they prove an ideal match. Joined by bassist Drew Gress (who has long played with both musicians) and drummer Joey Baron (who can play anything with anybody), this might turn out to be a "classic quartet."

Alessi, 53, has a lean tone and a penchant for minor chords that seems to owe much to Miles Davis' In a Silent Way mode, but he adds to it a classicist's harmonic stretch and an expansive puzzle-master's sense of space. His albums as a composer-leader, most notably Baida and This Against That, tend to explore the tectonic layers of a song in always intriguing, sometimes riveting ways.

Copland, 67, played saxophone early on before switching to piano, which may account for the sharp clarity of his melodic lines (a legacy of his horn-blowing days) and the vast palette of colors in his voicings (a dimension of music that he couldn't tap into with a horn alone). When he and Alessi start playing the melody of Ellington's "Mystery Song" (the album's only cover), I thought for a second that two horns were blowing in unison.

Melodic lines and color palettes aren't the first (or second, or third) features I'd note about Alessi's past albums (or his musical inclinations), but Copland's immersions bring out a glow in the trumpeter's sound. The two musicians complement each other with depths of feeling I wouldn't have expected.

This is a very satisfying album not only musically but also sonically. Engineer Katsuhiko Naitu recorded the session in 24/96 using ProTools at Oktaven AudiO, in Yonkers, using the studio's stockpile of vintage mikes (and some modern clones), including Neumann M49s and KM84s, RCA 44s, and a pair of Schoeps CMT-56s for ambience. Some jiggering was done in the mastering with a Manley Massive Passive EQ and Prism-Maselec MLA2 limiter.

Alessi's trumpet sounds warm but natural and vibrant; Baron's trapset snaps and shimmers; Gress' bass is properly woody and articulate; and Copland's piano has the right mix of percussive and liquid.


Read more at http://www.stereophile.com/content/marc-copland%E2%80%99s-zenith#Vg2ehCTBWepvlPBR.99

 

Elmore Magazine

March 11th, 2016

by Mike Jurkovic

Album Reviews

 

Marc Copland

 

Zenith

 

 

Artist:     Marc Copland

Album:     Zenith

Label:     Innervoice Jazz

Release Date:     03/01/2016

90

Gratefully, pianist Marc Copland keeps things decidedly old-school jazz quartet on Zenith: exploratory, expansive, expressive, impressionistic. And then again, why shouldn’t his music invoke these motifs? His long cred certainly gives itself over to it: He, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Joey Baron comprise legendary guitarist John Abercrombie’s rhythm section. Likewise, Copland and Baron have sustained the subtle muscle alongside master bassist Gary Peacock. Marc Copland may not be on the lips of every jazz aficionado, but through the years he’s played significant roles with Paul Motian, James Moody, Chico Hamilton, Ralph Towner… the list, as they say, goes on.

Complimented by the ever-inventive trumpeter Ralph Alessi, Zenith would be a 2016 keeper if it only included the elongated atmospherics and acrobatics of the improvised suite “Air We’ve Never Breathed.” That four earthy, free form Copland compositions, the floating “Sun At The Zenith,” “Waterfalls,” “Best Bet,” the gentle breeze to full force gale “Hurricane,” and a roiling take on Ellington’s “Mystery Song” is significant highlight reel stuff. Marc Copland has kicked off his own record label with a crowning achievement.

– Mike Jurkovic

 

Huffington Post
March 9th, 2016
THE BLOG

Pianist/Composer Marc Copland Reaches New Heights With Zenith

03/09/2016 11:36 am ET | Updated 21 hours ago

2016-03-09-1457540706-7964003-Zenith.jpg

The definition of zenith is "the highest point reached in the sky by any celestial object." Over the years I have always enjoyed Mr. Copland's work. I identify deeply with his musical sensibilities. The pianist has consistently tried to reach his own personal musical zenith, whether it be as a leader or as a much sought after sideman. With his latest recording Zenith he may have accomplished just that.

From the opening bars of "Sun at Zenith" you are transported into a world of thoughtful rumination. Mr. Copland has a wonderfully sensitive touch on his keyboard and here he is joined by his working trio of equally emotive musicians, his long tenured associate Drew Gress on acoustic bass and his frequent collaborator Joey Baron on drums. The trio finds another partner in this evocative music making journey in the form of the trumpeter Ralph Alessi, a musician whose subtle brilliance shines beautifully on this recording. Together these gentlemen make magic happen.

All compositions, except "Mystery Song" and "Air We've Never Breathed," are by Mr. Copland whose style has a floating, weightless feel to it, the perfect platform to allow Mr. Alessi's delicate trumpet work to soar in the open, both within the band's elastic rhythms and above them. "Sun at the Zenith "is a testament to the group's one speak-four musicians melding their distinct sounds into one cogent and unified statement of beauty.

Listen to the pliant bass work of Gress on the opening of "Mystery Song," a Duke Ellington composition hardly recognizable under Copland's modern arrangement, specifically tailored to be a true collaborative effort for these particular musicians. Mr. Baron's syncopated drum work is the epitome of subtle force and probing drive. Copland's piano is rhythmically elegant as it weaves lines of unexpected beauty over the composition's core rhythmic drive. The effect is intoxicating in the way the group just pulls you along into its sway.

2016-03-09-1457540754-4867304-A29504413798295231585.jpeg.jpg

Marc Copeland

Alessi is a unique voice on the trumpet, a voice that sings in an almost angelic way. Even when he reaches to the outer limits of the trumpet's higher register it is restrained and purposeful with no tendency toward brashness.

The "Air We've Never Breathed" is a three-part suite that is like a series of tonal conversations that was created by Mr. Copland along with his other band mates. The first features an interchange between Gress' plucky bass and Alessi's muted trumpet, subtitled "The Bass Knows." This proceeds to Copland stirringly creating a series of repeated motifs on piano titled "Up and Over." Gress and Baron percolate in their own rhythmic soup over which Copland and Alessi have their own distinct conversation. The music vacillates between subdued and animated with each musician lending their individual talents in a show of unified purpose. Baron suddenly transforms the music with a stunning display of precision cymbal work on the final piece titled "Lips." The relentless cymbal time used as a background for a gorgeous interplay between Copland's melancholic piano and Alessi's sorrowful trumpet.

"Waterfalls" is a wonderful vehicle for the pulsating bass work of Gress. No other bass player, with the exception of Christian McBride, sounds quite as robust at keeping such difficult and complex time with unerring consistency as Drew Gress. Anchored by his frenetic heartbeat, the group veers into a driving cascade of sound that finds Alessi at his most intense, pulled along by the gentle prodding of Copland, the unassuming director of the whole production. Baron splashes into the current with his liquid-like cymbal work.

The more traditional "Best Bet" is a composition that features Copland at his most lyrical. The gentle, breezy feel is accentuated by Alessi's solo work that takes to the air like a bird in flight. Copland's dancing elegance creates an air of calm beauty that is reminiscent of some of Bill Evan's ruminative ballad work. His cascading arpeggios fall lightly like lingering raindrops falling on a thirsty leaf. Alessi's poignantly squeezed notes perfectly counterbalance Copland's tender sound.

The last cut on this fine album, titled "Hurricane," has a circular feel to it with Copland's repeating lines and Gress' big round bass pulsating throughout. Baron's rambunctious drums create the whirlwind background as Alessi's horn hovers like a scream in the wind. Copland's piano is at its most percussive with the bombastic Baron filling in between the notes with relentless cymbal crashes, tumultuous toms and pops on his snare. A hurricane of sound that leave the listener anxiously waiting for the impending calm.

Zenith is an initial release from Mr. Copland's recently formed label, Inner Voice Jazz. If this first recording is any indication of what is to come, this label will be a sure source for superbly creative recordings in the future.

Here is a video of some of Mr. Copland's previous work:

Notes on Jazz

March 8th, 2016

by Ralph A. Miriello

Pianist/Composer Marc Copland rises to new heights on "Zenith"

Marc Copland's Zenith Inner Voice Jazz IVJ101
The definition of zenith is “the highest point reached in the sky by any celestial object.”  Over the years I have always enjoyed Mr. Copland's work. I identify deeply with his musical sensibilities. The pianist has consistently tried to reach his own personal musical zenith, whether it be as a leader or as a much sought after sideman. With his latest recording Zenith he may have accomplished just that.
From the opening bars of "Sun at Zenith” you are transported into a world of thoughtful rumination. Mr. Copland has a wonderfully sensitive touch on his keyboard and here he is joined by his working trio of equally emotive musicians, his long tenured associate Drew Gress on acoustic bass and his frequent collaborator Joey Baron on drums. The trio finds another partner in this evocative music making journey in the form of the trumpeter Ralph Alessi, a musician whose subtle brilliance shines beautifully on this recording. Together these gentlemen make magic happen.
All compositions, except "Mystery Song" and "Air We've Never Breathed," are by Mr. Copland whose style has a floating, weightless feel to it, the perfect platform to allow Mr. Alessi’s delicate trumpet work to soar in the open, both within the band’s elastic rhythms and above them. “Sun at the Zenith “is a testament to the group's one speak-four musicians melding their distinct sounds into one cogent and unified statement of beauty.
Listen to the pliant bass work of Gress on the opening of “Mystery Song,” a Duke Ellington composition hardly recognizable under Copland’s modern arrangement, specifically tailored to be a true collaborative effort for these particular musicians. Mr. Baron’s syncopated drum work is the epitome of subtle force and probing drive. Copland’s piano is rhythmically elegant as it weaves lines of unexpected beauty over the composition’s core rhythmic drive. The effect is intoxicating in the way the group just pulls you along into its sway.
Marc Copeland photo credit unknown
Alessi is a unique voice on the trumpet, a voice that sings in an almost angelic way. Even when he reaches to the outer limits of the trumpet’s higher register it is restrained and purposeful with no tendency toward brashness. 
The “Air We’ve Never Breathed” is a three-part suite that is like a series of tonal conversations that was created by Mr. Copland along with his other band mates. The first features an interchange between Gress’ plucky bass and Alessi’s muted trumpet, subtitled “The Bass Knows.” This proceeds to Copland stirringly creating a series of repeated motifs on piano titled “Up and Over.” Gress and Baron percolate in their own rhythmic soup over which Copland and Alessi have their own distinct conversation. The music vacillates between subdued and animated with each musician lending their individual talents in a show of unified purpose. Baron suddenly transforms the music with a stunning display of precision cymbal work on the final piece titled “Lips.” The relentless cymbal time used as a background for a gorgeous interplay between Copland’s melancholic piano and Alessi’s sorrowful trumpet.
“Waterfalls” is a wonderful vehicle for the pulsating bass work of Gress. No other bass player, with the exception of Christian McBride, sounds quite as robust at keeping such difficult and complex time with unerring consistency as Drew Gress. Anchored by his frenetic heartbeat, the group veers into a driving cascade of sound that finds Alessi at his most intense, pulled along by the gentle prodding of Copland, the unassuming director of the whole production. Baron splashes into the current with his liquid-like cymbal work.
The more traditional “Best Bet” is a composition that features Copland at his most lyrical. The gentle, breezy feel is accentuated by Alessi’s solo work that takes to the air like a bird in flight. Copland’s dancing elegance creates an air of calm beauty that is reminiscent of some of Bill Evan’s ruminative ballad work. His cascading arpeggios fall lightly like lingering raindrops falling on a thirsty leaf. Alessi’s poignantly squeezed notes perfectly counterbalance Copland’s tender sound.

The last cut on this fine album, titled “Hurricane,” has a circular feel to it with Copland’s repeating lines and Gress’ big round bass pulsating throughout.  Baron’s rambunctious drums create the whirlwind background as Alessi’s horn hovers like a scream in the wind. Copland’s piano is at its most percussive with the bombastic Baron filling in between the notes with relentless cymbal crashes, tumultuous toms and pops on his snare. A hurricane of sound that leave the listener anxiously waiting for the impending calm.

 

The Irish Times

March, 4th, 2016

Marc Copland - Zenith: immaculate jazz trio is sympathetic, open and explorative

Fri, Mar 4, 2016, 06:33

  

Album:
Zenith

Artist:
Marc Copland

Label:
Inner Voice

Genre:
Jazz

Even if Marc Copland was a household name and selling albums by the truckload, he’d still be underrated.

As it is, the Philadelphia-born pianist is one of those musicians who is prized by his fellow musicians – he’s a fixture in the bands of John Abercrombie and Gary Peacock – but still relatively unsung compared with the “big name” pianists among whom he deserves a place.

The 67-year-old’s immaculate trio, with bassist Drew Gress and drummer Joey Barron, is everything a jazz group should be – sympathetic, intuitive, open and explorative.

The addition of trumpeter Ralph Alessi on this, Copland’s first release for his own label, makes for a thrilling new quartet from the heart of the American jazz tradition, at once both fresh and classic – a gold standard in contemporary acoustic jazz.

innervoicejazz.com

 

ALL ABOUT JAZZ

March 1st, 2016

Marc Copland: Zenith

 

Budd Kopman By
Published:
Views: 980

Marc Copland: Zenith

Whenever pianist Marc Copland is a sideman on a session, much less leading the session, there are very high expectations for the music. Whether it is the lustrous sound he gets from the keyboard, which includes his pedalling, the dense harmonies which create shimmering harmonics or the intelligence of his lines and compositions, Copland has a unique voice and musical personality.

Zenith meets and exceeds any expectations one might have; it is a joy to listen from many different angles, with repeat listenings deepening its impact.

As the initial release of Copland's own label, InnerVoice Jazz, he brings to fruition the desire to control his own destiny. Musical relationships are built, expand and extend. Bassist Drew Gress has played with Copland going back fifteen years on the Hat and Pirouet labels, while drummer Joey Baron joined Copland in bassist Gary Peacock's trio. The three play together in John Abercrombie's latest quartet. Trumpeter Ralph Alessi, who seems to finally getting the recognition he deserves, rounds out the current quartet and adds his own unique voice. His musical mind is quite flexible and adaptive, and he is able to play in both free and structured settings (see most recently, Enrico Pieranunzi's Proximity, as well as his ECM debut Baida, on which Gress appears).

The album features four original compositions by Copland, one group improvisation and a dazzling version of a relatively unknown Ellington tune, "Mystery Song" (see here for the original). Copland's connection to Bill Evans is clear, and to these ears, there is also a connection to Bobo Stenson, exemplified in the abstract (but sharp and highly intentioned) side of his music.

The opening (almost title) tune, "Sun At The Zenith," starts off with a rather menacing, foreboding feeling, which is maintained by the off-kilter bass vamp. Over this flows a long-limbed, twisting and turning melody that pushes and pulls against the prevailing rhythm of the vamp. We are in dangerous aural territory here —the melodic component wants to float, but struggles against the dark claws of the vamp. Alessi is brilliant as he balances on an emotional knife edge, his lines incorporating the dark and light, as Copland continually fills the space between top and bottom with a gleaming intensity. This is a fabulous track which demands attention, setting the dominant mood.

Ellington's "Mystery" follows, and must have been chosen for the way it combines an underlying simplicity of structure and harmony with the mysterious way it sounds like it might fall apart or fly away. The band bubbles, set up by Baron (who you can almost feel smiling). Alessi again gets to heart of the tune, while picking it apart and putting it back together; Gress is an essential part of the mix, both as a soloist and in his important role as partner to Baron.

At this point, it is clear that, while led by Copland compositionally, the quartet is very much a cooperative and what comes across is a group sound and musical personality. The next (and longest) track, "Air We've Never Breathed," is the group improvisation, and shows how everyone has a voice in the group; Baron is just as important as Copland, Gress' voice adds as much as Alessi's. The piece, which is given three parts on the liner, but not queued on the record, grows and evolves, and has a wondrous two-minute middle section (about nine minutes in) featuring Baron alone just on cymbals, leading to a long, leisurely line by Alessi with sparse accompaniment by Copland -magical.

"Hurricane," which ends the album, is very openly and outwardly emotional. The title itself gives an idea of the music's power and intensity. Listening to it is very much a full-body experience, and a bit of a change of pace from the intellectual slant of the earlier tracks.

Copland continues on his journey, and with this excellent quartet has reached new heights.


Track Listing: Sun At The Zenith; Mystery Song; Air We've Never Breathed: I. The Bass Knows, II. Up and Over, III. Lips; Waterfalls; Best Bet; Hurricane.

Personnel: Marc Copland: piano; Ralph Alessi: trumpet; Drew Gress: bass; Joey Baron: drums.

Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Innervoice Jazz | Style: Modern Jazz

Midwest Record

Feb 2nd 2016

by Chris Spector

 

 

 

 

 

INNER VOICE JAZZ
MARC COPLAND/Zenith:  With day jobs as the backing crew of two ECM mainstay acts, Copland and pals go really indie here, leaving the Pirouet stable and not asking Manny Eicher for favors as they bring downtown to you and sound younger and more experimental than graying hair would leave you to believe.  First class sitting down jazz by a crew that can easily play it any way they want to, this is a good indication of how arts council music would sound if it was beholden to on one.  Nicely played, chaps.

Volume 39/Number 93
February 2, 2016
MIDWEST RECORD 
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher 
Copyright 2016 Midwest Record 

 

Melminter.com

Feb 2nd 2016

 

2/3/2016 New Releases from Pianists Marc Copland and Florian Hoefner | Musically Speaking
http://www.melminter.com/2016/02/02/new-releases-from-pianists-marc-copland-and-florian-hoefner/#more-2615 1/4
New Releases from Pianists Marc Copland and Florian Hoefner
Reviews of new albums from pianists who started on different instruments—Marc Copland on sax,
Florian Hoefner on trumpet—celebrate their decision to move to the keyboard.
Zenith, Marc Copland (innerVoice Jazz)
Marc Copland knocked me out when he
appeared at the Outpost last year in John
Abercrombie’s quartet. He was so keyed into what
the moment needed from him, and he delivered it
with passion, humor, touch, and a killer rhythmic
instinct. So I jumped on the
opportunity to review his new release, Zenith (on
his new label, innerVoice Jazz) when it
appeared in the mailbox. Featuring Ralph Alessi
(trumpet), Drew Gress (bass), and Joey Baron
(drums), Zenith 􀃒nds Copland at the—wait for it—
summit of his abilities.
Both Copland and Alessi, colorists at heart, excel at painting abstract sonic atmospheres, and Copland’s
broad harmonic palette gives them plenty of room to stretch out. Copland takes the writing credit for
2/3/2016 New Releases from Pianists Marc Copland and Florian Hoefner | Musically Speaking
http://www.melminter.com/2016/02/02/new-releases-from-pianists-marc-copland-and-florian-hoefner/#more-2615 2/4
Gress, Copland, Alessi, and Baron. Photo by Robin
Verheyen.
four of the six tracks, with the three-part “Air We’ve Never Breathed,” ascribed to the entire quartet, and
Duke Ellington’s “Mystery Song” rounding out the selections. Copland explores and exploits harmonies
that, however unexpected, hit just the right notes. If harmony had a pocket, he’d be deep in it. As it is,
he is deep in the rhythmic pocket when comping under Alessi’s solos, 􀃒nding the right accents
harmonically and otherwise.
Alessi never wastes a note. His spare, lyrical stylings are freighted with emotion. Just check out the
heartbreaking line in his solo in the 􀃒nal part of “Air We’ve Never Breathed.” On that same track, Baron
takes a hold-your-breath solo on the cymbals alone. “Timbre timbre timbre”—the musical equivalent of
“Location location location”—might be the axiom for these four guys.
Gress and Baron are beautifully matched,
􀃒nding just the right measure of swing and funk
that a tune demands—from the
easygoing swing on “Sun at Zenith” to the edgy,
exhilarating boil of “Waterfalls” to the high
simmer under “Mystery Song.” Check out the
opening on this track, where Gress and Baron
set up contrasting rhythmic
􀃒gures that seem mismatched at 􀃒rst but slowly
and magically lock together in a deeply swinging
groove.
Beautifully recorded, mixed, and mastered by
Katsuhiko Naito, Zenith o􀃗ers up a
quartet that seems to beat with one heart and is
well acquainted with the thrilling sensation of
weightlessness.

All About Jazz

January 28th, 2016

Marc Copland: Zenith

 

Dan McClenaghan By
Published:
Views: 1,942
After releasing a series of excellent but under-recognized CDs on various small record labels—starting in the mid-1980s—pianist Marc Copland rose in prominence in 2006 when he took up residence on Germany's Pirouet Records. The highlight of his Pirouet days was a set of trio discs wrapped in a marketing package dubbed "The New York Trio Recordings." Modinha (2006); Voices (2007); and Night Whispers (2008), with a shifting set of band mates: Gary Peacock or Drew Gress on bass, Paul Motian or Bill Stewart drums, showcased Copland's skills to perfection. These discs attain the pinnacle of the very best piano trio offerings, ever, and they won for Copland some very well-deserved recognition. Copeland's sound in the piano trio is singular: he dips deeply into harmony, creating glistening chords and shimmering rhythms, a sort of diaphanous dream music so beautiful it's almost hard to believe.

Then there's Marc Copland teaming with horns, whether it's with saxophonist Greg Osby on Crosstalk (Pirouet Records, 2011), or with trumpeter Randy Brecker on Both/And (Nagel Heyer, 2006), the horn additions to his trio set-up changes his music, giving it a different momentum, more urgency, more grgariousness.

Zenith finds Copland with long time cohorts Drew Gress (bass) and Joey Baron (drums), teaming with trumpeter Ralph Alessi, for perhaps the best of the pianist's non-trio outings. It also finds him without the backing of a record company. Marc Copland has started InnerVoice Jazz, his own label.

Alessi, after releasing very successful records on the Clean Feed and CamJazz labels, has has landed on the ECM Records with Baida (2013), and in early 2016, Quiver. He is a consummate jazz man/improviser, with sideman slots in recordings, sitting in with Drew Gress on Black Butterflies (Premonition Records, 2005), plus set with Ravi Coltrane, Sam Rivers, Don Byron and Steve Coleman. He brings to Zenith a brashness and energy, a beautiful sense of abstraction.

"Sun at the Zenith" opens the disc with Copland's impressionistic melody. His piano is, as expected, gorgeous. The band floats. Alessi's open horn has a measured richness as it issues wandering lines that weave sinuously in and around the rhythm section. "Mystery Song," from the Duke Ellington songbook, 1931, doesn't sound Ellingtonian. It's a controlled tumult, a shifty, sneaky version, Copland's piano work sounding particularity inspired and on edge, with Baron and Gress injecting the sense of rolling, tumbling mystery.

The centerpiece, "Air We've Never Breathed," is a fourteen minute group improvisation, a sometimes playful, sometimes introspective rumination on Bill Zavatsky's poem, printed on the inside of the fold-out cover. "Waterfalls" is roiling rapids, an implacable rush of water. "Best Bet" brings in a beautiful ballad mood, and "Hurricane" begins gently, calm before the storm mode, then slow cranks things up to near gale force.

Zenith, Marc Copland's debut on his new label, meets all of the expectations his stellar work at Pirouet Records established.


Track Listing: Sun At The Zenith; Mystery Song; Air We've Never Breathed: I. The Bass Knows, II. Up and Over, III. Lips; Waterfalls; Best Bet; Hurricane.

Personnel: Marc Copland: piano; Ralph Alessi: trumpet; Drew Gress: bass; Joey Baron: drums.

Year Released: 2016

Record Label: Innervoice Jazz

Style: Modern Jazz


LIve Concert Reviews 2015 - Marc Copland ZENITH

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