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Archiv: an appreciation

Love, deep love at first sound – these are very rare occurances in my life. I remember just a few, less than ten. At the moment I remember half an hour of roaring silence I listened to in Iceland many years ago, I remember Forest Flower, Sunrise-Sunset played by the Charles Lloyd Quartet at Monterey, I remember Stella by Starlight performed by the Miles Davis Quintet at Lincoln Center on February 12, 1964. Furthermore some Madrigals composed by Claudio Monteverdi and of course Keith Jarrett, Lausanne 1973 Part II.

Love at first sound came to pass when I listened to New Age Hand Jive the first time. This happened not only to me, but at the same time to my daughter, who entered my living room and said: „I want this piece of music, please“. When she was pregnant, she played it many times and my unborn grandson Julius became familiar with this beautiful music (but now he likes Bavarian Folk Brass Music – uff da daaa).

Larry Karush is the composer’s name. But who is Larry Karush? Damn! I don’t know how I got on Karush’s album PIANO CROSSROADS. Larry Karush was born October 6, 1946. He performed improvised music with roots in jazz, 20th and 21st century western classical music, African percussion, and the classical music of North India. This characterises exactly the above mentioned album. Together with Glen Moore and Glen Velez he formed the wonderful Trio Mokave.
 
 
 


 
 
 

In December 2015 I contacted Glen Moore to learn more about Larry. I wrote:
 

Today I write primarily because of Larry Karush and Mokave. I heard of Larry Karush when Steve Reich’s „Music For 18 Musicians“ was released in 1978. He was then a member of Reich’s Musicians. I didn’t forget his name, maybe because of the release of „May 24, 1976“ (JAPO Records) which I didn’t buy then. In those days I noticed quite carefully all the issues published by ECM.

It took me a very long time until I realized what an astonishing pianist and composer he has been. Now it’s only a few weeks ago when I listened by chance to „PIANO CROSSROADS“. I was unusually fascinated and looked out for some more records of Larry. There are not so many.

In my ears and in my opinion Larry was one of the best piano players of modern jazz and more, being at the same height of virtuosity, originality, deepness like many other well known piano players. And he has his own dialect.

I don’t understand, why he remained so unheeded.
– was he too unpretentious, too shy?
– didn’t he find a label, a promoter to bring him forward?
– did he prefer more to teach than to perform?

I read about him (wikipedia). It’s woeful that he has passed away already in 2013

 

Glen’s answer:
 

Dear Hans,

thank you very much for your kind letter.

I am happy for you that you could find Larrys recordings – he also plays a duet with me on the Oregon album FRIENDS.

Larry and I became friends in Portland, Oregon where he was a student at Reed College. Larry was a very talented player.

Your first assumption was correct – he was too unpretentious, too shy to be able to push himself out into the world. He loved music and was one of the greatest players I have known.

I will pass your letter to his wife and son who would be pleased to hear his praises sung by you.

All the best,

Glen

 

 
 
 

(This is the 2nd article in a series of pieces devoted to jazz pianists I consider to be highly underrated: )

 

The first time I saw Art Lande with the Rubisa Patrol was in of all places, Cotati California, a small college town about 45 minutes from San Francisco. I had brought my fiancée and was sitting with her in the legendary Inn of Beginning, trying to explain to her what she was about to hear. I remember telling her that the music was lyrical, but there was also an unpredictable wackiness in his approach, and at times his music could get very weird. A few minutes later Art and the band appeared on stage. This was the original ECM band consisting of Bill Douglas on bass, Mark Isham (who went on to become a solo artist and well known film composer,) on trumpet, and Glen Cronkite on drums. Art was sitting at this old, funky upright piano on the stage where rock greats such as Neil Young and Van Morrison had recently made impromptu appearances. Art turned to the small audience and said, “I’m Art Lande, this is the Rubisa Patrol, and I hope this music isn’t too weird for YOU!” And he pointed right at my fiancée. 

 

What I most remember from that night is Bill and Mark playing a duet on two shakahachis, which suddenly morphed into a samurai sword fight. At one point the music was so fierce, the keyboard lid fell, almost squashing Art’s hands. Art immediately responded by deliberately banging the lid up and down as a kind of impromptu percussion instrument. This clever adaptation captures the essence of the man, who is able to be present and creatively respond  to musical happenstance with lightening quick reflexes.

 

Although I never took a formal lesson from him, Art has been a kind of mentor to me over the years. I have probably seen him live more than any other pianist. In fact, I just saw him play a marvelous Mothers Day concert last Sunday with the irrepressible singer/songwriter Kate McGarry and her guitarist husband, Keith Ganz, (who has to be one of the most underrated guitarists on the planet- check them out.)

 

What draws me to Art’s playing is his originality and spontaneity. I’ve listened to the man live and on record for over 40 years, and I don’t think I’ve heard a single “lick.” If one goes all the way back to his (vinyl only) first release, The Eccentricities of Earl Dant (an anagram of his name,) one finds his original style already evolved to the point of being recognizable as pure Lande: the lyricism, the idiosyncratic humor, the rhythmic drive, odd clusters, lines that dance, swirl and unexpectedly veer towards the edge of tonality, yet always evincing the trademark warmth and humanity that makes Art so unique. 

 

His harmonic concept is obviously influenced by Monk as well as Bill Evans, but equally influenced by classical composers, such as Bartok, Bach and Debussy, not to mention his studies with composer/performer/writer, W.A Mathieu. He is listed in Wikipedia as one of the founders of what is known as “chamber jazz.” Knowing Art, I’m sure he would hate that label, because it truly limits the scope of his musical curiosity and invention, which has led him down many paths, often away from the ECM sound he was most known for in the late 70s. 

 

Art only made a few albums for ECM. The first was a duet album with Jan Garbarek. Red Lanta (1974 – the title is another anagram of Arts name,) is a landmark album in the classic chamber jazz mold. The tunes are airy and light on the surface, yet reveal hidden depths –  this intimate recording captures a casual rapport between these two great players, both of whom had a signature sound right out of the gate. Years after it’s release, upon mentioning the album to Art, and telling him how much it meant to me, his response was, “Oh, that old thing?” 

 

The two Rubisa Patrol albums are ECM classics. The writing is mostly Art’s, and it certainly fits into the chamber jazz setting. After that, Art was the featured pianist on Gary Peacock’s Shift in the Wind, a trio album with drummer Elliot Zigmund. A far more energetic album with some free play interspersed with Gary and Art’s compositions, I consider it to be among the best trio albums in the early ECM catalog. There was also an experimental record with Mark Isham, entitled We Begin. Combining Art’s piano with Mark Isham’s trumpet and synthesizer skills, it’s somewhat of an oddity, but one that grows on the listener with repeated plays – in retrospect, while the 80s synth sounds date it somewhat, it’s still a very forward looking recording in many respects.

 

I consider the album, Skylight to be one of the finest examples of “chamber jazz” in the entire ECM catalog. Here the trio, consisting of Lande, Paul McCandless and vibist Dave Samuels pick up where they left off on McCandless’s first solo release, All the Mornings Bring (Vanguard – a great recording, finally released on CD), with more of the same: superb compositions and incredibly intuitive ensemble playing. I consider both of these albums to be essential listening in this genre. 

 

Seeing Art live, one never knows what to expect. Back in the late 70s, Art would sometimes hold court at the Great American Music Hall for several nights, each night having a different theme. One night it was lyrical duets with Paul McCandless (it’s amazing that after decades of performing together as a duo, Paul and Art have yet to release a duet album), the next, the Rubisa Patrol playing nothing but waltzes. Another night there were mattresses and blankets on the floor; the lights were down low onstage and everyone in the band was lying down. Occasionally, a somnambulant figure would rise in the darkness and sleepwalk to an instrument – slow abstract lullabies emerged. 

 

Art is also a literary kind of guy. He often reads poetry aloud while improvising. Sometimes, he just makes stuff up. I remember a night where he told a spontaneous tale of an alien sneaking into a house and raiding the fridge- his alien voice was hysterical. On rare occasions he has been known to sing one of his own humorous and quirky songs.

 

Eventually Art left the Bay Area for Switzerland where he was active as a teacher and performer for a number of years. For some reason that period isn’t documented by any recordings I am aware of. He was no longer with a label at that point – in fact he has continued to be an independent artist to this day. Art eventually returned to the states where he made his home in Boulder Colorado. At 71, he has been more active than ever – he currently plays in at least 6 bands and still records and tours regularly.

 

Art likes to pair up with young musicians – occasionally as the drummer rather than pianist. One such band is called the Russian Dragon Band (Rushing/Dragging – a drummers joke?) Another group with Art in the drummer’s seat is the Boy Girl Band, a group entirely  devoted to playing completely improvised music.  He is also featured on drums in the experimental group Funko Moderno, a postmodern band that plays music that supposedly originates in the fictitious country of “Italavia.” It’s a premise that allows for funk, bebop, tongue in cheek jazz themes and Slavic music influences to collide in unpredictable ways.  

 

Art also guests on countless albums. One such example is Sioux Country, by sax player/educator Pete Sommers – It is a fine duo album. Featuring Pete’s compositions, it’s not unlike Red Lanta in tone, although it feels distinctly American, coming as it is from the southwest. Art also has an ongoing series of free improvisation recordings with sax player, Mark Miller. Seeing the two together live, one can expect an evening of musical mayhem. Occasionally, Art will whip out his trusty melodica and perform as a 2nd horn player. The two are good friends – it’s an anything goes musical situation that often becomes comically theatrical.

 

Art has also had a special musical relationship with French/Vietnamese guitarist/composer Nguyen Le. Appearing in the mid 80s on both of Le’s first two albums (Universal – both excellent) , Miracles and Zanzibar (with Paul McCandless), and his superb ACT recording, Walking on the Tiger’s Tail (also with McCandless,) there is an electric current running between these two distinctly unique artists – their highly contrasting styles and temperaments seem to bring out the best in one another. In 2008, while recovering from a bad breakup, I took a trip to the southwest where I followed Art and Nguyen Le on their mini tour of the Southwest. The first concert of the tour was a house concert in Boulder. I remember sitting in a small living room crammed with around 12 guests, looking at a grand piano and next to it, an electric guitar, a MacBook Pro on a music stand and on the floor, a pedalboard filled with blinking lights – I asked myself, “How on earth is this going to work?” What followed was a surprising mix of atmospheric sounds, ambient jazz, and world music. It was a magnificent, unforgettable performance. 

 

That’s the thing about Art Lande: he has an insatiable musical curiosity. His work embodies the perfect balance of freedom and form. He supports creativity in others and loves to collaborate. His collaborations even go beyond his musical associations: In 2011, with the help of two graphic artists and an editor/writer, he created his own tarot deck. The “Art tarot” is the fruit of decades of study and 6 years of development. The goal was to strip away the medieval archaisms of the original decks, cutting to the essence of the archetypes and energies represented by each card. If you’re interested in tarot as a tool for self transformation, it’s worth tracking down. 

 

Art’s albums are worth tracking down as well. Unfortunately, they’re  not always easy to find. Art cares not a whit about self promotion. He never speaks of new releases – he doesn’t use the internet at all. The only way to find new music by this artist is to visit his website (which he proclaims he has nothing to do with,) or do a Google search. Besides the ones mentioned in the article, I also recommend checking out the following:

 

Melissa Spins Away (vinyl only,) Great American Music Hall label, solo piano (an album of jazz waltzes – gorgeous.)

Friday the 13th- Vartan Jazz, music of Monk-solo piano  (very cool album- was supposed to be a live album but something went wrong and wound up recorded live in the studio.)

Shapeshifter- Synergy Music- original compositions, with Paul McCandless, Peter Barshay and Alan Hall

Recurring Dream – Mike McGinnis with Art and Steve Swallow (they just released a followup album)

Nemesis- Songlines- Mark Nodwell, Drew Greiss, Tom Rainey, Doug Young, Ron Miles (Marc Nodwell’s compositions are notable and it’s an SACD)

Polar Opposites- Dave Peterson guitar, Art Lande piano (good guitar player, nice tunes. Mostly duos, but I think theres a rhythm section on a few tunes as well.)

For a complete discography of Art’s recordings both as leader and sideman, including the aforementioned bands and albums, (some of which are only available as download on his site) and touring schedule, check out www.artlande.com 

I believe in Zufall (chance).

I guess it was before 1995 when I became aware of Marc Copland, so it was just the same time when Brian met the music of Marc Copland. It was the time when the internet stepped out from governmental, universitary or military institutions to conquer the world and knit a world wide web. In those days it was not so easy to do things like this:

 

I’ll be exploring his back catalog for many years to come.

 

Nowadays it’s simple. Just visit Discogs or Spotify (as I did yesterday) and you’ll find an abundant number of recordings of Marc Copland.

How did it happen – maybe in 1993 – that I heard Marc Copland? You know (or even not) that German TV-stations didn’t broadcast a full 24-hour-program then. The station 3sat for example showed overnight only Teletext, underlaid by Jazz and some additional information about the presented tune. On average I visited 2 or 3 times a month this nightly hours of 3sat when I couldn’t find sleep or when I woke up early in the morning. One morning I listened to an electrifying Piano Trio, Marc Copland treating the keys, as I could read. A few days later I got the CD. Two Way Street is the title of this fine album, starting and ending surprisingly muscular. In between you’ll find wonderful balladesque versions of M.A.S.H. and Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Zingaro. You listen to an imaginative pianist with a highly individual use of harmonies, fine melodic lines, in conversation with his tasteful partners Dieter Ilg on bass and Ralph Penland on drums. Songs Without End never found the way to Germany, I presume.

 
 
 

 
 
 
Booklet remarks by John Abercrombie
 

I lost sight of him, like you Brian, not because of descending interest, but rather than lack of offerings. I discovered one more album, What’s Goin On, with Dieter Ilg and Jeff Hirshfield. This time the notes in the booklet are created by Marc Copland.

 
 
 

 
 
 
Booklet remarks by Marc Copland
 

It was rather late, when I focussed on this great artist again, not since Copland is cooperating with ECM, which started not before 2013. The label Pirouet from München had been the home of Copland for a long time, as far as I see from 2003 until 2012. In this period 3 highly important albums had been released, gems in my collection.

 
 
NEW YORK TRIO RECORDINGS VOL. 1 / MODINHA
NEW YORK TRIO RECORDINGS VOL. 2 / VOICES
NEW YORK TRIO RECORDINGS VOL. 3 / NIGHT WHISPERS
 
 

I know that Marc Copland started his musical career as a saxophone player, a fact which is well documented on the Pirouet website.

 

Marc Copland, 1948 in Philadelphia geboren, beherrschte das Altsaxophon Mitte der 1970er Jahre vorzüglich, kollaborierte in New York mit arrivierten Kollegen wie Ralph Towner, Chico Hamilton und John Abercrombie. Doch irgendwann spürte er, dass etwas falsch lief. „Die Musik, die ich spielte, war nicht die Musik, die mir im Kopf herumging.“ Von einem Tag auf den anderen legte er das Horn zur Seite, zog sich völlig aus der Szene zurück und begann, das Geheimnis des Elfenbeins zu ergründen. Zehn Jahre verschwand er von der Bildfläche, übte verbissen und studierte andere Pianisten. 1985 fühlte er sich endlich bereit für den Start in die zweite Karriere. Ein Novum, ein Unding!

 

Another important label is hatOLOGY, where Copland recorded several albums between 2002 and 2011, including Marc Copland And … & Impressions (Duo with Dave Liebman).

I can’t say more than Brian about Marc Copland, except of that I witnessed him live at the wonderful Jazz Club Birdland in Neuburg/Donau – a deep experience.

Thanks to Brian for singing the praise of Marc.

 

 
 
 
Sometimes an artist just sneaks up on you. You know about him, listen to him on different recordings, and one day, you just realize just how special he/she is.

I first became aware of Marc Copland on Songs Without End, a 1994 duo album with Ralph Towner. Copland was the perfect partner for Towner’s evanescent guitar. It’s not always easy to find that balance between piano and guitar, two chordal instruments that share a lot of the same sonic space, but these two found more than balance – they found the creative flexibility to sound almost orchestral, not just avoiding stepping on one another’s toes, but finding a synergistic platform that goaded each of them on, a good example being their interpretation of “Nardis,” which ascends to greater heights with every chorus.

When I think of Copland’s playing, words like elegant, understated and lyrical come immediately to mind. Copland uses his head and thinks on his feet, yet never loses touch with his heart, making for an appealing listening experience that is at once both intellectually stimulating and emotionally compelling. Although he continued to record through the 90s and into the new century, I lost sight of him until he began recording on the ECM label with John Abercrombie. Abercrombie found the perfect foil in Marc Copland. The two seemed to have a telepathic connection, and Copland delved deeply into Abercrombie’s obtuse harmonies. He was on only 2 quartet albums with Abercrombie on ECM, 39 Steps and sadly, John’s very last album, the stunning Up and Coming (easily of the best albums of 2017.) Both are essential albums for any lover of contemporary jazz.

Copland is one of those pianists who is forever on the road to new discoveries. He never seems to go for the obvious thing; he is simply incapable of playing a lick. A supple and elastic player who can be surprisingly muscular at times, he is also one of the most melodic pianists on today’s scene. He is one among a shortlist of players who, over the years, have honed their unique voice in an overcrowded field of post-Evans sound-alikes.

After rediscovering Copland, I was dismayed that there were only two albums of him with John Abercrombie. Or so I thought – then I happily discovered there are earlier associations with Abercrombie that go all the way back to 1990. I recently spent an unnaturally warm winter afternoon cycling to Sebastopol, listening to Marc’s album Another Day (Pirouette-2008) which features Abercrombie, Drew Gress, Billy Hart, and it’s every bit as rewarding as either of the ECM quartet albums. (Incidentally, there’s also a duet album with Abercrombie, titled Speak to Me, which I am trying to get ahold of.)

I also discovered Alone, one of several solo titles on his Pirouet label. Nestled between reimagined standards such as „Soul Eyes“ and „I Should Care“, are completely reharmonized versions of three early Joni Mitchell tunes, „I don’t know Where I stand“, „Rainy Night House“ and „Michael from Mountains“. Not many jazz pianists are drawn to folk artists for inspiration, but here Copland finds a lot of play with. Above the subtly applied dissonance and metallic voicings, it’s all about melody. In her early days, Mitchell wrote beautiful melodies and Copland finds much to dig into. His originals, such as the mysterious „Night Whisperers“ and the evocative „Into Silence“, fall nicely between the cracks.

I discovered another gem on TIDAL, an album he made with the late Michael Brecker, entitled Marc Copland And … It’s a real find. Oddly enough, the aggressive post-bop sound that characterizes much of this recording is punctuated by three distinctly different versions of Paul Simon’s “Old Friends”. Each of his reharmonizations of one of Simon’s most heartfelt tunes is a little miracle.

Another association worth mentioning is the collaborative trio with Abercrombie and Kenny Wheeler. They made two excellent albums for the Challenge label, Brand New (1999) and That’s for Sure (2008.) It’s a treat hearing these masters laying down Wheeler and Abercrombie tunes in an intimate trio with no drums or bass. Both are well worth picking up, especially if you’re a rabid Wheeler fan, as I am.

Before closing, I must also mention the Gary Peacock Trio, whose album Tangents was one of 2017’s best trio releases. I saw them in concert last spring at SF Jazz ECM festival, sadly in a way, because the Abercrombie Quartet had originally been scheduled, but John was quite ill and had cancelled his west coast tour. It was an incredibly dynamic performance, and one of the highlights of my concert going adventures last year. It was my first time seeing Copland live – a powerful and moving experience. Copland manages to be both delicate and visceral, his flowing lines fly like magical arrows that always hit their target.

At times I hear a little Richie Beirach, other times I hear the late John Taylor, yet the more I listen to Marc Copland, the more I hear Marc Copland. I’ll be exploring his back catalog for many years to come.
 

[Footnote: there’s a new trio album called ECV, with guitarist Roddy Elias, Copland and bassist Adrian Veddady that I’ve been hearing good things about. John Kelman reviewed it recently on allaboutjazz. Will report back after I live with it a while.]

 


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