Jazz interview with jazz pianist Marc Copland. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, arid what got you interested in music?
Marc Copland: – I grew up in Philadelphia, Pa., and discovered jazz as a teen-aged alto saxophonist. I had a close friend in high school who also played saxophone, and we hung out and listened together a lot. We exchanged ideas and learned a lot from each other. Maybe you’ve heard of him, his name was Mike Brecker. 🙂
JBN.S: – Of course. his Tales from the Hudson is one of my favorites. What interested you in picking up the piano?
MC: – In my early twenties, I felt something was missing in my musical experience. I was very attracted to textures and colors; connecting with them through composing worked great, but not so with the saxophone. The music I was writing was very new and felt like the right direction; in order to make those tunes work, I had to switch to an instrument that could play chords. The piano was a logical choice. I’d studied it as a young child.
JBN.S: – What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the piano you are today? What made you choose the piano?
MC: – I studied improvisation with Lennie Tristano for a couple of years, but he taught me as a saxophonist, I didn’t learn anything about the piano from him. Because of my early piano lessons I knew the correct fingerings, scales, and some very basic repertoire—Fur Elise, for example—but other than two or three years of that, I didn’t have formal instruction. My teachers were recordings—Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, Joni Mitchell, and a lot of early 20th century classical music. Whatever I know about technique I learned from books, videos, and from listening for and trying to create the sound I wanted. The minute I switched to piano, I knew where I wanted to go and had a good idea how to get there.
There’s an interesting book on technique by Walter Gieseking and his teacher, Kurt Leimar. Their theory on technique is: learn to hear and understand the structure of the piece you are playing so thoroughly that you don’t have to read the piece. Your body will then find the correct technical solutions by itself. And I thought: exactly! That’s how most jazz players used to learn to play. There weren’t any jazz conservatories when I grew up.
I did study composition briefly, with Romeo Cascarino in Philadelphia and Meyer Kupferman in New York. For the rest I had some theory and harmony courses in the university; but most of what I learned I got by examing scores and listening.
JBN.S: – What about the Your sound did that influence at all? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
MC: – Ballads. Played ballads, slowly, concentrating on the middle register of the instrument. I spent hours and hours looking for different possibiity of chord voicings and voice leading.
JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
MC: – There’s nothing quite as good as playing with a metronome, but it has to be done in the right way.
JBN.S: – What do you love most about your new album: Tangents in Gary Peacock Trio.
MC: – My newest album is “Nightfall,” a solo outing on InnerVoice Jazz. Tangents came out a few months earlier, and that’s Gary’s album–but we’ve worked together for so many years, it feels very collaborative. Both albums, each in their own way, are a fair representation of the kind of work with colors and harmonies that I feel are important to music.
JBN.S: – Many aspiring musicians are always looking for advice when navigating thru the music business. Is there any piece of advice you can offer to aspiring students or even your peers that you believe will help them succeed and stay positive in this business?
MC: – A long time ago I had an interesting talk with my old friend, the drummer Eric Gravatt. He said, “Just keep working on your thing. If it’s good, someone will hear about you.”
JBN.S: – Аnd finally jazz can be a business today and someday?
MC: – I’m not going to lie–the business seems to become more difficult as time goes on. But here’s what I see in New York: there are still talented young people who come to the city to live and to dedicate their lives to the music. That’s very encouraging.
JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are from half-a-century ago?
MC: – You’re asking a 69-year-old musician who’s made a substantial part of his reputation by interpreting standards in a particular way. But standards are not necessary to the growth of music. The music can continue to develop as the importance of standards to that development diminishes.
JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
MC: – My good friend and partner of almost a half-century, the late John Abercrombie, said it best: Music is my religion.
JBN.S: – What are your hopes and fears for the future of?
MC: – As long as there are young musicians willing to dedicate their lives to the music, it’ll be ok.
JBN.S: – What’s the next musical frontier for you?
MC: – Same frontier I’ve been on for all these years—trying to find new tools to increase the range of colors and textures that I can use to try and share the beauty that I hear internally.
JBN.S: – Are there any similarities between the blues/jazz and the genres of local folk music and traditional forms?
MC: – Folk music is an important ingredient in all music. Look at Bartok!
JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
MC: – John left me an old Jim Hall live trio date. I put it on the other day—it’s killin’! Reminded me so much of John. No showing off, nothing very busy or loud. Just swinging, joyful, tasteful, and intimate.
Interview by Simon Sargsyan
P.S. JBN.S – What do you love most about your new album Nightfall, how it was formed and what you are working on today. Next year your fans like we can wait for a new album?
MC: – It was great to work with Philippe Ghielmetti again. In my mind this album has become kind of a tribute – to Gary, to Ralph, and of course to my late friend John. I’m so grateful he heard the album when he did. We have a new trio release “in the can,” with Drew Gress and Joey Baron. It has to be mixed, but it’s there. Release will be sometime in 2018.