Pianist Marc Copland is the most ECM-friendly musician without a record under his own name on that label. Via his frequent and longstanding engagement with ECM headliners like John Abercrombie and Gary Peacock, and through his prolific recordings on the German Pirouet label, Copland has consistently displayed the harmonic elegance and crystalline intonation that compels and rewards keen listening.
There is no better way to listen to Copland right now than in the quartet that prompted him to start a record label of his own, InnerVoice Jazz, for the 2016 disc Zenith. The group consists of Abercrombie’s rhythm section—Copland, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Joey Baron—but swaps out Abercrombie for the crucial presence of trumpeter Ralph Alessi. Their followup to Zenith, entitled Better by Far, acknowledges that Copland’s compositions can be as masterfully controlling and cerebral as an Ingmar Bergman film, and intersperses three playful group improvisations plus a Monk cover (“Evidence”) as recess from the delightful rigor of the more meaty material.