Marc Copland: Gary (Illusion)

A review of the pianist's tribute album to bassist Gary Peacock

Gary by Marc Copland
The cover of Gary by Marc Copland

Pianist Marc Copland treats the compositions of bassist Gary Peacock with a respectful intimacy on this stark solo album. The two artists, who first met in Seattle back in 1983, share a quiet but sturdy iconoclasm. Copland also shares many of the virtues common to the three other pianists with whom Peacock has had especially noteworthy associations—Bill Evans, Paul Bley, and Keith Jarrett—but is arguably more abstract and restrained, with a greater generosity of spirit. Having recorded half of these eight songs less than five years ago in the Peacock Trio with drummer Joey Baron, for the ECM album Now This, Copland still apparently felt the need to personalize the tribute with some minor refinements on Gary.

Peacock has a knack for concocting haunting refrains, a quality that meshes well with Copland’s sublime use of resonance. The pianist’s impeccable intonation and use of the foot pedals enable him to fade and bleed the notes and chords of those refrains, often interspersed with delicate surges seasoned with modal and harmonic changes. On “Gaia,” his asides are fascinating and ephemeral, like sonic footnotes whispered into the margins. “Requiem” sets a tableau that is as stark and forlorn as a sub-zero snowfall. “Empty Carousel” injects a whiff of blues into its slow, circular churn, and “Random Mist” is chamber-esque.

The lone composition that isn’t Gary Peacock’s is the title song, written by Annette Peacock, who was married first to Gary and then Paul Bley, recorded in 1963 by a trio comprising husband, ex-husband, and Paul Motian. The album closer, “Vignette,” is a Copland favorite—he offered two different versions on What It Says and already played it solo on his album Nightfall. This rendition is Gary’s most playful track, but the abiding ambience of the disc captures the pianist’s profound admiration for Peacock as composer and human being.

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