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Marc Copland/John Abercrombie : Speak to Me

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The arrival of this superb collection of duets from pianist Marc Copland and guitarist John Abercrombie isn’t exactly surprising, given the unmistakable compatibility they’ve demonstrated in other settings. But that doesn’t make the CD’s nine performances any less welcome or compelling.

Though the tunes are a mix of original pieces (three composed by each of the players), pop standards (“If I Should Lose You” and “Witchcraft”) and an Ornette Coleman contribution (“Blues Connotation”), a conversational tone prevails throughout, beginning with Abercrombie’s soulful musing “Left Behind.” Naturally, the duo partners trade roles, improvising and accompanying with understated ease. But for listeners, the most rewarding aspects of this alliance aren’t so easily divisible. The elegantly woven lines, the seamless and subtle ways in which the melodies are illuminated or tweaked, the mutual pleasure the duo clearly takes in reharmonizing a pop classic-these are just some of the qualities and tactics that elevate the performances and reveal well-matched sensibilities. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Copland and Abercrombie write tunes that facilitate the intuitive rapport they’ve developed over the years.

For contrasting examples of how they keep things interesting-and why they appear perfectly suited for the piano-guitar format-first check out “Seven,” a haunting ballad penned by Abercrombie, then move on to Coleman’s blues offering, with its angular intervals and tricky interplay. Both pieces seem a natural fit. A multifaceted “Witchcraft” serves as the session coda, an apt choice considering the album’s multiple charms.

Originally Published