The thing that first captured my attention about Copali was how in sync its members are with one another. Their performances have a creative, improvisational feel, but their cohesiveness and spot-on delivery left me with the assumption that the band must work very hard to perfect the spontaneous vibe that permeates their shows.
Imagine my delight when I recently sat in on a rehearsal and discovered that while I was right about the hard work part, the spontaneity is not contrived. The musicians that make up Copali are, individually and collectively, gifted. They confidently combine their individual gifts and abilities and give audiences something new with every performance.
What is their secret? Their talent and confidence are necessary components, but it is trust that drives Copali’s on-stage success. Blaine Klein, who plays steel pans, leads the band decisively but generously, giving each musician room to leave their own mark upon the music. He leads with laser focus, always respectful of his bandmates’ considerable talents and always instinctively mindful of maintaining the high quality music that Copali fans have come to expect.
The generosity doesn’t stop with Klein, either. It would be easy to make the mistake of giving him all the credit for the band’s success, but all six members of Copali work together collaboratively and cooperatively to make the unique brand of music they describe as original instrumental jazz fusion. My description of their work expands to include words like surprising, fun and cool.
One fun, cool surprise comes in the form of Willow DiGiacomo, who plays clarinet, saxophone and flute and is adept at all three instruments. It is her prowess with the clarinet that makes her a stand-out. In rehearsal, her solo during Gershwin’s classic “Summertime” was exquisite, true to the melody but with her own unique imprint upon it.
Charles Klein plays bass with such charisma and joy that it could be easy to miss how well he plays. His playing brings a funky, spirited element to Copali. His general stage presence is impressive, and his playing in rehearsal, especially on “Bass Fishing,” was even more impressive.
There is a rock n’ roll element to Copali’s music that is subtle and effective. Guitarist Mike Langman is the guy who brings the rock vibe and musically walks that line without a trace of clumsiness. Langman’s playing shows depth and nuance, which was on display during his solo in “On the Big Screen.”
Rounding out the band of six is Copali’s new drummer, Matt Frey. Perhaps the reason Frey seems so at home playing with Copali is because he has played with them before as a guest musician. He performs the music with reverence and respect, soaking up suggestions from other band members and jumping in to offer them his own ideas.
When rehearsal was over, the band asked me to pose for a selfie with them, a first for me. I had been there for a couple of hours, and as I had witnessed, when you’re in a Copali rehearsal, you are part of an ensemble, and I have the photo as proof of my collaboration.
A few days later I had the pleasure of seeing them perform at The Secret Cellar Speakeasy in Kent. The venue was beautiful, the staff was friendly and interesting and the wine was good, but the evening for me was all about Copali.
Many of the Secret Cellar’s patrons had not yet heard their music, but from the first note Copali had the audience under their spell. They took all that fine playing I heard in their rehearsal and kicked it up a few notches, giving the audience a winning performance. Especially notable was “Sax Funk,” my favorite selection in Copali’s line-up, and Lucas Rich and his sax and Klein and his steel pans delivered the promised funk.
At the end of the evening, my husband and I loaded Copali’s CD into our car’s car stereo for the drive home. We were not ready for the end of our date with Copali and their gorgeous original music.
To learn more about Copali, go to www.facebook.com/copalimusic.
To sample and purchase Copali’s music, go to copalimusic.bandcamp.com/releases.
Check out Copali’s Spoils of Akron interview here.