INTERVALS: THE NEWSLETTER OF DAVID LIEBMAN-SUMMER 2000
HI TO EVERYONE:
Just to mention that if you don't wish to receive this newsletter you can unsubscribe through the web site (if that is how you subscribed in the first place) or directly to me if this came as an e-mail. Some people may be on both lists, so if you receive two copies PLEASE go to my web site and unsubscribe since that will be the easiest way. I am always adding people whom I think would be interested but that assumption may be erroneous and I apologize if this is the case. To all new readers, I welcome you to the newsletter which I have been doing by mail since 1993 and electronically since last year. I encourage first time visitors to go to my web site which is revised several times a year. It offers articles, a list of available publications, sound clips, photos of historic interest and more. The address is www.davidliebman.com/lieb
FEATURE: PRIVATE PASSIONS-BBC RADIO SHOW
While in London with my group in April, I was invited to do a show called Private Passions for the BBC arts radio channel. Most of the guests have been artists other than musicians with very few jazz players in any case. The idea is for the guest to bring in their favorite music for discussion with a very intelligent presenter, who is also a composer, Michael Berkeley. What Sarah Cropper, the producer and myself came up within the constraints of the time allotted was like an aural autobiography-a voyage into my past unlike I have ever done in one hour. My selections were Trane's "Crescent"; Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock"; Charles Ives' "The Unanswered Question"; "Pan Piper" from Miles' "Sketches of Spain"; "That's The Way Of The World" from Earth, Wind and Fire; music by the Armenian dudek master, Djivan Gasparian and the slow opening movement from Beethoven's String Quartet #131. It was a dramatic hour for me bringing back loads of memories and making me realize how much we are a product of our early listening influences. In my case the sheer variety of styles truly reflects the diversity of my musical interests which I assume accounts for the eclectic nature of the music I have made over the years. Summarizing each piece:"Crescent" is the epitomy of improvisation as poetry-lyrical, passionate, well thought out yet spontaneous and ever so swinging!! "Woodstock" from one of the greatest of the singer-songwriters of our time made me nostalgic, thinking about the dreams we of that generation had in the 60s and how we changed the world at least a little. Ives' piece is a jewel of chromaticism with question and answer clearly distinguishable and exquisitely dissonant. "Sketches of Spain" is my all time favorite recording (more about that below) and among the most evocative statements of all time for my tastes. Polished songwriting and arranging, impeccably played and so-o-o funky was Earth, Wind & Fire's music, but also wonderful ballads as in my choice here. Representing just one of the ethnic musics that I have listened to over the years(with Indian music being in the forefront), Gasparian's sound on the dudek is as close to the voice as I have heard and pure beauty. Finally the passion and intensity of the slow opening movement from Beethoven's Quartet in C# Minor is as close as you get to unadulterated truth in music. Hearing these pieces, in some cases for the first time in decades was emotional for me and above all, inspiring and affirming as to what I and others like me try to do.
RECENT EVENTS Dave Liebman Group Tour-EUROPE:
We had a wonderful European tour followed by dates up and down the east coast of America from Washinton,DC to Portland,Maine. A highlight was the four nights at the Pizza Express in London (recorded by gmn.com for whom I am a "family artist"). Also we did a TV show for the WDR in Koln, Germany which will be televised in the next few months. The tour included a concert in Skopje, Macedonia where I have been twice before (1988 with Quest and 1994 with this group). Even with all my traveling, it is still true that the process broadens your view of things-not always in a happy sense. Skopje is very close to Kosovo and a staging area for the United Nations K-FOR peacekeeping troops as well as a refuge for displaced Albanians both now and during the war. The population has doubled in the past few years and there is a sense of impending chaos in the air. With things like toilet paper at a premium, not to mention so many items we take for granted it is both humbling and sad to see how these people are living, through no fault of their own. As is said in effect:"If not for the grace of God, there go I". After all these people only live one hour from Zurich by air but it is another world. We have no idea how lucky we are!!
AMERICA: For the American leg, we began in a rather remote area of Vermont, not far from Canada. Before the band met me there for a final concert, I did three intense days of workshops with high school and junior high students. I have discussed in past newsletters my high respect for teachers who toil in the trenches, like John Padden who heads the program at the Lyndon Institute and was my host. These kids in the big band at Lyndon were playing original Mingus and Don Ellis charts at an incredible level. It's so inspiring to see what is happening in places all over the world that don't necessarily get the spotlight thrown upon them, but are really taking care of business and giving something so valuable to young people. As Phil Woods once remarked to me:"It's better for a kid to have a saxophone than a rifle!"
A GREAT JAM SESSION:
After finishing the gig with my band at Blues Alley in Washington, DC, I headed out to a jam session at the One Step Down with my friend and part-time booking agent who has been supporting my efforts for decades now, Michael Cherigo. I had a great hang playing with several different combinations of musicians, who were tremendous to play with. It reminded me of the feeling of camaraderie that jazz musicians feel for each other in situations like that when they occur. Rare as they are nowadays, a late session at a bar in a major city brings on an indescribable feeling and a wonderful opportunity to informally communicate with other musicians. These occurrences are unfortunately not as common as they once were and we are lesser musicians because of it.
A nice confluence of several events having to do with Miles Davis happened recently. Over the years I have recorded for Teo Macero, who of course was Miles' producer for the greater part of his career. Usually they are overdubs or big bands and by and large Teo's music, which is always interesting and loose. I did a few tunes for him now and in his mid seventies, Teo is as always on it-full of energy, humor and bustling with ideas-truly inspirational. Also around that time I had occasion to listen to the boxed set of "Bitches Brew" which included several unreleased tracks. These were recorded just around the time when I was beginning my loft days in New York with Chick Corea and Dave Holland living in the same building on West 19th Street in Manhattan (1969-70). I remember them returning from recording sessions at the time with a feeling of bewilderment as to what Miles was up to. On the boxed set you can hear the ongoing experimentation that the Prince of Darkness was dealing with, yet it makes me wonder if putting all unreleased recordings out is fair to the artist since we have to surmise that this was music rejected by the leader at the time. (By the way, this is a big point of Teo's in relation to these releases!) Of course there is obvious historical value, but I am not sure about the whole issue from the ethical standpoint.
SKETCHES OF SPAIN:
A dream came through in London in early June when I performed the original music to this Gil Evans-Miles collaboration which is my all time favorite piece of music, beyond category. I think it is the prime example of intellect balanced with feeling as well as evincing deeply evocative images. Of course, the writing and Miles' playing are unbelievable. I always felt that the soprano sax would be great for the main voice and I added acoustic guitar, extra percussion as well as some synth and acoustic piano. It was done with students from both the classical and jazz department at the Guild Hall School of Music under the superb direction of Scott Stroman. It was for me similar to the thrill I enjoyed when I played with Wayne Shorter at a 1987 Coltrane tribute in Japan. I hope to do it again somewhere.
On this same European tour where I played Sketches of Spain, I recorded with a wonderful pianist whom I had made a CD with some years ago in the Netherlands, Marc Van Roon. We played duo (soprano only) and it was a most unusual date because it was all textural with no direct tunes as such. The success of playing in such a manner is predicated on being organized and clear in one's playing as well as openly communicative with your partner. A tune may be built of dynamics or a certain kind of voicing/melody combination and so on. Also I played a concert with the great Irish trio of bassist Ronan Guilfoyle and his brother, drummer Connor along with guitarist Mike Nielsen in Dublin. We also assembled a live recording we did a year ago. This is a great group with whom I have been playing since the late 1980s. Ronan has written what I think is the best yet description of metric modulation, cross rhythms and odd time signatures published so far. (Available through Caris Music Services.) I hope at some point to do a tour with this trio which really likes to stretch the boundaries. Finally a concert in Bergen, Norway with the Petter Wettre Trio was a burning success. I will be doing some more dates with them in the next few months promoting a recording I produced and played on with the Trio. As usual, Europe is a fertile place for me with constant creative projects going on.
NEW MATERIALS ELVIN JONES :THE BLUE NOTE YEARS
The Mosaic limited release of Elvin Jones' Complete Blue Note Recordings (1968-73) in an eight CD boxed set has happened. As I remarked in a past newsletter, writing the extensive liner notes was a lot of fun. This is not only because my first recordings were with Elvin at the time but also to appreciate the great variety of music and musicians he chose to present on record. Some times, it seemed that the dates were hanging together by a sheer thread, but as you hear on the cds, it always worked. The cast included many musicians like Jan Hammer, Gene Perla, Steve Grossman, Lee Morgan, Chick Corea, Jimmy Garrison, Joe Farrell, Pepper Adams, Frank Foster and others with the music ranging from latin to fusion to odd meter. Historically, Elvin had finished his years with Coltrane only a little before beginning a relationship with Blue Note and what you hear is a leader and musical visionary in the making. A good portion of my liner notes are about Elvin's drumming style and for that I was aided by several world class drummers who let me in on the inside knowledge. For me the greatest drummer and one of the all time top jazz musicians is Elvin Jones, but even more than his playing is the immensity of his soul and passion.
TIME IMMEMORIAL(ENJA RECORDS):
In the mid 1980s I recorded the "Loneliness of A Long Distance Runner" for CMP which was for soprano saxophones, solo and overdubbed, set in a very programmatic, extensively composed suite. With the metaphor of a long distance runner as the artist I traced the steps of the process one encounters along the way. Deciding to do another recording in a similar vein a few years ago in the same studio in Germany, the result is "Time Immemorial". Engineer Walter Quintus took the sound of the various saxophones (alto and baritone are included) and manipulated them to where at times they are unrecognizable as such. The material is mostly improvised with four pieces set in different styles as the main material. The philosophical underpinning is concerned with a kind of historical overview and man's relation to time. It is available in Europe on the ENJA label and expected to be released in the States during the fall.
NEW SAXOPHONE QUARTET MUSIC:
In the mid 90s while on tour with my group we played in Leipzig, Germany where Bach spent 27 years as the choir master at the town church. In the morning after our concert, pianist Phil Markowitz and myself went to the church to pay our respects . Lo and behold, someone was practicing Bach's music on a gigantic organ. It was quite an experience and I decided to write something, somehow, to commemorate the happening. "In Bach's Studio" is for saxophone quartet and written in a chorale style but with harmony derived from the concepts discussed in my book, "A Chromatic Approach to Jazz Harmony and Melody". Solos for each saxophone are either improvised according to interval sets or read as I wrote them. Published by Advance Music in German , it is available through them or Caris Music Services(www.davidliebman.com/caris).
COMING EVENTS (exact dates can be looked up):
JUNE:Asbestos Summer Music Camp near Montreal as guest artist;Dave Liebman Group at Trumpets in Montclair, New Jersey;with pianist Roberta Piket's group at Cornelia Street Cafe in New York City.
JULY:11th Annual Jazz Meeting of the IASJ in Paris with performance at La Villette Jazz Festival featuring European premiere of Bill Warfield's Le Jazz Hot and special Liebman with French Friends set including Michel Portal, Joachim Kuhn, Jean Paul Celea, Daniel Humair and Francois Janneau dedicated to the memory of bassist J.F.Jenny-Clarke; guest appearance at Jamey Aebersold Summer Jazz Camp,Louisville, Kentucky;guest appearance at Purchase College Summer Jazz Institute, New York; guest appearance at Scranton, Pennsylvania Cultural Center; appearances with Mark Isham Silent Way Project in Antibes, France and San Sebastian, Spain;with Wolfgang Reisinger and Jean Paul Celea in Genoa Festival, Italy.
AUGUST:13th Saxophone Master Class at East Stroudsburg University, Pennsylvania; appearances with Petter Wettre Trio and "Far North" (Stenson, Daniellson and Christensen) at the Oslo Jazz Festival, Norway; with Brazilia Group doing the music of Elvin Jones at the Red Sea Festival, Eilat, Israel.
I have been reading about the terrible crisis in Rwanda, Africa especially for pregnant women The lifetime risk of death from pregnancy is 400 times greater than in the developed world. It is possible to offer meaningful help the International Rescue Committee which has developed special birthing kits that can be purchased and distributed to Rwanda mothers and mid-wives. The kit includes basics like clean cloths, umbilical sutures, razor blades, soap and other necessities. It can be donated for 8$ U.S. at www.netaid.com/survivalproject. All the money goes right to aid; none will be used for organizational overhead.
Pianist Hal Galper has written an incredible book that covers touring, getting gigs and much more which should be required reading for all working musicians. The name is "The Touring Musician" and it is published by Billboard Publications. Go to the following site for free worksheet downloads (which are incredible in their detail), table of contents and comments by readers: http://www.davidliebman.com/galper/biz_talk/1.htm
And finally a sign off to the great Tito Puente, a survivor and artist of the highest order.
All the best