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Mark Copeland Quartet: Second Look

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Featuring Copland, John Abercrombie, Drew Gress, and Billy Hart, this album, the group’s second Savoy release, finds its four participants perfectly matched in terms of improvisational outlook and sensitivity toward the overall sound. A former saxophonist turned pianist, Copland has a highly musical approach that favors lithe melodies, spare harmonies, and a keen ear for dynamics. Coupled with Abercrombie, who shares his thinking in many musical areas, the result is something that is flexible, ever changing, and rarely predictable.

All but two of the numbers are originals. Tunes like Abercrombie’s classic “Timeless” and Copland’s “Snowfall” organically unfold. On the former (sans bass and drums) guitar and piano delicately and haltingly intertwine and explore, while the latter develops programatically and features perceptive embellishments by Gress and Hart. A funky reading of Parker’s “Au Privave,” held together by Hart’s understated but cohesive drumming, especially gives Abercrombie and Copland a chance to stretch out and develop their solos. It’s an intimate look at four first-rate improvisers together one more time.

– Jim Ferguson