Thursday, September 14, 2023

Marc Copland Quartet: “Someday” (2022/2023) CD Review

Pianist and composer Marc Copland has released a lot of excellent music over the last several decades. His latest release, Someday, features the quartet of Marc Copland on piano, Robin Verheyen on tenor saxophone and soprano saxophone, Drew Gress on bass, and Mark Ferber on drums. It contains mostly original material, some of it written by Marc Copland and some by Robin Verheyen. A couple of these pieces were previously explored on earlier releases in different configurations.

The album opens with one of its few covers, “Someday My Prince Will Come,” which begins softly, delicately on piano, perhaps in those opening moments uncertain, though hopeful, of the future the person desires. It isn’t long before the other musicians come in. This is a beautiful, contemplative rendition, feeling as if taking place within a dreamy state, a night from which one is hesitant to wake, to face the perhaps harsher truths of daylight, wanting rather to soar forth on a wish. Music like this makes it feel possible. That’s followed by the first of the album’s original numbers, “Spinning Things,” written by Marc Copland. When I first glanced at the disc’s track list, this one stood out for me because of the different possible meanings of its title. It could means things that are rotating, or it could be the act of placing a particular slant on topics. The feel of its initial moments is rather somber, the saxophone then adding a lighter element. And it is the saxophone that moves things forward, that finds interesting avenues to travel down, allowing things to get looser, less restrained, so by the time Marc Copland moves into his lead, we are in a somewhat different mood. Even before then, the rhythm section is popping, with Mark Ferber’s work on drums in particular standing out. And Marc Copland’s playing has a certain freedom and joy. Interestingly, the piece then returns to the feel of the opening, as Drew Gress begins his lead on bass. The energy then builds again from there.

“Dukish” is another original composition, this one written by Robin Verheyen. It begins in a softer place, easing in, creating a thoughtful landscape and mood. There are some warm tones here that are like brief caresses in the night, with space enough for our own memories. I especially love that moment when the saxophone and piano swell together, as if touched by magic, or creating their own. But there is some uncertainty here too, particularly toward the end. The second of the album’s covers is Thelonious Monk’s “Let’s Cool One,” and here the band gets more playful, as well as seriously cool. There is a wonderful lead on piano early on, though I am particularly fond of the work on bass and drums. These guys find a good groove and enjoy themselves within its world. The saxophone lead makes me smile each time I listen to this track. And of course I love those short drum solos toward the end of the track. I get a little sad when this number draws to its close. That’s followed by “Round She Goes,” which was written by Marc Copland. A different version of this piece was included on Copland’s 2005 album, Some Love Songs, there performed by his trio, Drew Gress on bass for that one as well. I like the early bass lead. The piano work is rather pretty at the start, and then becomes more powerful and dramatic at moments. I love the way this one builds. It features some excellent work on drums as well. Then when the saxophone returns, it can’t wait to sing out, to shout out. It’s interesting that toward the end when the saxophone becomes warmer, repeating a theme, the drums become more powerful, insistent, commanding our attention. It’s a surprisingly exciting section.

“Encore” was written by Robin Verheyen. It begins in a mellower place, gentle and serious, though, again, the drums get somewhat looser than the other instruments, which creates an interesting effect. And then the saxophone is freed to dance lightly over the song’s main theme. The last of the album’s original numbers is “Day And Night,” composed by Marc Copland. As it begins, it feels like the early morning hours, the world starting to wake, emerging from its dreams, only slightly reluctantly, the light coming in, and we reaching up to meet it. Soon the activities of the day take over, the saxophone stretching and getting active, and the rhythm saying, let’s go, we’re already in motion. Then the saxophone gives way to the piano, and we remain in the stream of movement, the bustle of the day. The bass lead seems to signal a change, though as some things settle, and others are just getting going, leading to the drums taking over. Interestingly, this one fades out, so things are still in motion, still happening, as it ends. This is a piece that Marc Copland recorded for his 2017 album Better By Far, and again two years later for And I Love Her. Drew Gress played on both of those versions too. The album then concludes with a cover of “Nardis,” written by Miles Davis, and recorded multiple times by Bill Evans. I love that work on saxophone in the early section. It has a smooth, cool vibe. And Marc Copland delivers some fantastic work on piano in this rather delightful rendition.

CD Track List

  1. Someday My Prince Will Come
  2. Spinning Things
  3. Dukish
  4. Let’s Cool One
  5. Round She Goes
  6. Encore
  7. Day And Night
  8. Nardis

Someday was released on CD worldwide on September 1, 2023, but apparently got an initial release last October.

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