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October 2001

Marc Copland/Tim Hagans
Between the Lines
SteepleChase

More albums like this are needed-not just for its consummate musicianship, but also to demonstrate the bare-bones approach to chamber jazz and the unbridled freedom it affords like-minded swingers.

Pianist Copland and trumpeter/flugelhornist Hagans might just as well be Emanuel Ax and Maurice Andre playing a recital, except the latter pair wouldn't understand or accept this kind of freedom: Their scores already come with dynamics and tempo markings, and must be played as composed.

Very little was written for Between the Lines; what we are privy to is a highly literate duologue of melody and harmony. Rhythm is implied, or Copland will insert brief pedal points; at no time does he resort to a walking bass line or a Garnerlike jazz march. And at no time is the element of swing neglected. Of necessity, the most obvious rhythmic devices are used on the Latin number "Estate" and on Herbie Hancock's "Cantaloupe Island." So personal and minimalistic is the conversation that the occasional arranged heads-Thad Jones' "Three in One" and Ornette Coleman's "When Will the Blues Leave"-sound virtually orchestral in sonority.

The most clinical aspect comes in the extended harmonies employed, particularly in Wayne Shorter's "Nefertiti" and Hagans' own "Passing Giants"-it's a lovely recording, filled with surprises and discoveries. And when Copland "squeezes' his love for "Porgy" through a Harmon mute, it's like rediscovering Miles Davis.

This CD should be played and analyzed by every music department.

Originally published in October 2001
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