Two years ago, saxophonist and clarinetist Mark Lopeman released a beautiful album that completely escaped my radar. I'm just glad I'm catching up to it now. Recorded in June 2011, the album is Nice Work If You Can Get It and features Brandon Lee (tp), Noah Bless (tb), Mark Lopeman (ts,sop,cl), Ted Rosenthal (p), Nicki Parrott (b) and Tim Horner (d).
If you're unfamiliar with Lopeman, I can tell you that every song, every arrangement and every note that comes through your speakers is gorgeous. Talk about a tasteful, swinging group made for each other.
Lopeman grew up in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, where his early saxophone teacher gave him books on arranging and improvising. In high school, Lopeman took up the baritone saxophone to win a chair in the Akron Jazz Workshop. He also came in contact with the region's reed players. The list included Joe Lovano, Ernie Krivda, Rich Perry, Ralph Lalama, John Orsini, Rusty Higgins, Sam Riney, Ralph Carney, "Blue" Lou Marini and Mark Vinci. Lopeman met two more locals later—Ken Peplowski and Bill Kirchner.
Then it was on to Kent State, the Eastman School of Music and Akron University, where Lopeman earned bachelor's and master's degrees in music. After college, he toured with the Glenn Miller Orchestra and Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, worked the Broadway pits, and played tenor with Woody Herman and alto with Buddy Rich, backing Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Sarah Vaughan and Mel Torme.
Columbia Law School was next—something about a wrongful traffic ticket. After he graduated, he went to work for a small law firm. But arranging jobs kept rolling in, including a call from Gerry Mulligan, who asked him to score his Re-birth of the Cool album in 1991. Lopeman toured with the band for a time. Since the mid-'80s, Lopeman has been a member of Vince Giordano's Nighthawks.
In an age when the best albums feature just a handful of great tracks, Nice Work If You Can Get It is wall-to-wall special and worth every penny.
JazzWax tracks: You'll find Mark Lopeman's Nice Work If You Can Get It here.
JazzWax note: A special thanks to David Langner. You'll find more on Mark Lopeman at his site here.
JazzWax clip: Here's the group playing My Reverie...