By Bradley Bambarger | Published July 2017
“Day And Night,” the Marc Copland original that opens the second album by the pianist’s loose-limbed quartet with trumpeter Ralph Alessi, drummer Joey Baron and longtime bass partner Drew Gress, boasts such a ravishingly fluid melody that you might swear it was a vocal standard, if you didn’t know better. Magical writing, improvisation, atmosphere—it’s a totally captivating opener.
Copland owns a glowing piano sound and one of the most richly lyrical compositional sensibilities around, with such highlights as “Gone Now” offering a melody more indelible than the deepest kiss. Unlike 2015’s Zenith, with its pair of longer tracks, Better By Far lacks any epic explorations. But like that previous album and its slinky version of Duke Ellington’s “Mystery Song,” the new record has its own individualist interpretation of a vintage number: an oblique take on Thelonious Monk’s “Evidence,” led by Baron’s fantastically detailed grooving.
One might wish the band hit harder, but these four players bring out the subtle best in each other, maintaining rare collective tension in the darkly elliptical “Room Enough For Stars.” Blending clarity with warmth, the beautiful studio sound adds to the allure.
Better By Far: Day And Night; Better By Far; Mr. DJ; Gone Now; Twister; Room Enough For Stars; Evidence; Dark Passage; Who Said Swing? (62:32)
Personnel: Marc Copland, piano; Ralph Alessi, trumpet; Drew Gress, bass; Joey Baron, drums.