INTERVALS: THE NEWSLETTER OF DAVID LIEBMAN
Volume 10 - Issue #2 - 2002
INTERVALS:THE NEWSLETTER OF DAVID LIEBMAN-VOL.10-#2-2002
Just to mention that if you
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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 my newsletter which I have been issuing since 1993
several times a year. I encourage first time visitors to go to my web site which
offers in-depth articles, a list of available publications and CDs with sound
clips, private photos and recordings of historic interest, information about my
annual Saxophone Master Class, the International Association of Schools of Jazz
(IASJ) and more. The address is www.davidliebman.com/lieb
THE LEGACY OF WORLD WAR II
I am writing this on Sunday, March 2, aboard a train going through the
beautiful Austrian Alps to play the last concert of a 12 city tour in duo with
pianist Marc Copland, a wonderful musician whom I will write about below. While
traveling mostly on trains crisscrossing Germany, Austria and Switzerland, I
just read two books that relate specifically to my immediate surroundings. At
the same time, what to me is a very symbolic and dramatic gesture, the Euro has
just become the currency throughout most of Europe, signaling the end of
centuries old traditions. Thinking about all this leaves me with a deep feeling
concerning the legacy left by history and specifically World War II. Stories of
that era will gradually be forgotten as the last participants pass on, but they
remain very moving nonetheless.
THE PIANIST/ BEETHOVEN’S HAIR
Pianist” was recommended to
me by a Polish journalist (Jazz Forum) Pawel Brodowski whom I met in Warsaw last
year. It is an amazing story, written by a Jewish classical pianist, Wladyslaw
Szpilman, concerning how he survived the Warsaw ghetto during World War II. From
what Pawel tells me it seems that Roman Polanski has made a film based on the
book which will be released soon. It is a story of heroism, cruelty, altruism,
faith, suffering and tremendous luck. The other book, “Beethoven’s
Hair” by Russell Martin traces the true story of a lock of hair cut from
Ludwig’s head when he died and its long voyage across Europe and finally into
the hands of American collectors who have had it analyzed to reveal the possible
cause of Beethoven’s death (lead poisoning).The prized specimen figured
heavily in the escape of a group of Jews from Denmark to Sweden during the war.
Both books read like novels, but they are true to life and incredible
stories of what people go through and accomplish when they are in history’s
path--the weak and the strong, the lucky and unfortunate-and how there are good
and bad people on all sides of a conflict. For Europe, the World Wars were so
momentous that there is a story everywhere. What I love about reading history is
the feeling that if not for providence or whatever one believes in, you or I
could’ve been in these or any stories of the past. We are all the same and
since Time Immemorial, life’s events and emotions repeat and repeat. I highly
recommend these inspiring books.
ON SERVICE-THE ACT OF GIVING
The following concerns several friends of mine who share something in
common. They embody what I consider to be among the most redeeming of human
qualities, which is giving selflessly to others. With one’s parents we take
for granted what they do for us (unless it turns out to be a disaster!!) And for
those of us who have the opportunity we try to return it in kind to our
offspring, hopefully doing a good job. But I always am impressed when I see
giving of oneself on an everyday level, removed from blood ties and without
recognition or notoriety. Brother Ernesto, Jabali and “T” are three
individuals who in their way represent this quality to me.
Many musicians know Ernst Bucher and his wife, Trudie, who live in Baden,
Switzerland. He plays saxophone, paints, is a jazz and wine connoisseur and
along with Trudie, they are two of the most generous people to all the musicians
who come there to play. I have spent a lot of time with Ernst and when his
schedule permits he even joins me on tour. Once you meet Ernst, you will never
forget his smiling face, incredibly hand painted postcards that somehow find
their way to your home, and the great Himmel chocolate, Barolo wine and other
gifts that he invariably gives to many musicians. But Ernst’s everyday
activities reveal a different and more serious side.
For nearly 30 years he has been teaching students who are disadvantaged
in any number of ways be it socially, mentally or whatever. They have come to
Switzerland as refugees for the most part. At present, many of his students
(ranging in age from pre-teen through teenager) come from Kosovo, but in the
past he has had children from Turkey, North Africa and other European countries.
In some cases they are traumatized, possibly from broken homes, all thrust into
the very efficient and modernized Swiss society with learning disabilities and
of course no knowledge of the language. At present, Ernst has twelve children of
various ages and he has to address their needs, emotionally and educationally
throughout each and everyday.
When I finally get him to describe how hard he works and some of the
small successes as well as failures he achieves along the way it stands as a
testament to dedication. I have always felt that teaching young people is the
most selfless of jobs and I marvel at those who do it for years on end,
especially when the situation is fraught with natural obstacles as in these
student’s cases. It’s an experience to walk around the small town of Baden
with Ernst as he says hello to former students, who now appear to be integrated
into that world. Brother Ernseto-you are a prince among men!!
In the jazz world, especially among my generation, everyone knows Billy
Hart or as he is affectionately called by his Swahili name, Jabali (meaning
source of wisdom). This would be true if only for the fact that he has played
and recorded with literally hundreds of musicians, ranging from stars to
students. And this is exactly the point of what this very great drummer and
equally wise human being is about. Whether he is playing at some small club with
unknowns or as we will do in early May, with Mike Brecker, Joe Lovano and myself
at Symphony Space in New York City, Jabali’s attitude is always the same.
He comes to play—that is a given. His extraordinary musical powers are
manifested in any number of ways-as one of the premier colorists on the drum set
who can burn or tip as needed. What concerns Jabali and the muse he serves is
the music, first and foremost. He will always make you sound better because he
is a story teller of the highest order. It goes beyond the music into what great
art is about-that is bringing something into existence that was never there
before, while at the same time imparting this to the receiver with conviction
and of course, consummate skill. Jabali serves the musicians and audience by
giving everything to the music, beyond the realm of personality or individual
ego. This is what he and Ernst and people like them have in common. This is what
a really worthwhile life is about-giving and helping to improve lives around
Finally I want to mention another musician who also embodies the
dedication described above. That is bassist Tony Marino, whom I call “T”. He
has been working with me since 1991 in my regular group as well as a sideman on
numerous miscellaneous recordings that I have lead. Tony comes from the
Scranton, Pennsylvania area, which was part of the coal region when that was the
main fuel for heating-not exactly a cultural mecca!
Tony has never lived elsewhere nor attended any music school. Completely
self taught, he is a natural and instinctive musician who has probably played
more types of gigs than anyone I have ever known. A typical week for Tony may
involve a polka band, or a hotel gig in the Catskills, a performance as part of
Broadway diva Betty Buckley’s regular rhythm section, a Latin band in Philly
and the Dave Liebman Group. I have never known a musician who can so easily
traverse between idioms and always sound great. On electric or acoustic bass, in
any circumstance Tony does the job and never complains or brings attention to
himself. When you see him play you can’t forget the physical aspect-head
bobbing from side to side, eyes closed, completely INTO it. On top of this he
drives hundreds of miles all over the place in order to provide for his family
of three children and wife Marianna. I think that in the nearly 12 years we have
played together, I may have said three words of musical direction to him. I
remember how Miles was with the bassist in the band I was in, Michael Henderson.
They never talked and seemed to have a very cordial and understood relationship,
as was Miles with Dave Holland earlier from what I could gather. Bassists are by
nature selfless and instinctive but Tony goes beyond the pale in his utter
devotion to the music and those he works with.
To be surrounded by such people is a privilege and I am grateful for
Brother Ernst, Jabali and “T”. They are inspirations for me!!
The three nights in February at Birdland with Mike Brecker, Joe Lovano, Billy Hart, Rufus Reid and Phil Markowitz were exhilarating. To be on the stage with these guys is something…it really raises one’s game for sure. The combination of factors is impressive: to hear how great the saxophone can be played; the camaraderie of understanding and appreciating what each of us is doing; the individuality of our approaches and the sheer energy. We played more original tunes this time, even some completely free stuff with Joe burning it up on the alto clarinet. Our next “hit” is at Symphony Space celebrating Coltrane and in particular the “Meditations Suite” in early May. (more on that below in Upcoming Events)
With the release of our recording on the Whaling Sound label, the band consisting of Don Braden, Dan Moretti and myself on saxophones with Mark Walker and Oscar Stagnaro did a few New England gigs to inaugurate the recording. The theme of the band is the repertoire played by the three tenor front line which I was part of (with Frank Foster and Joe Farrell) on one of my first recordings with Elvin Jones, “Genesis” in 1971. We do some other tunes, but the thing that makes the group special is the Latin based rhythm section and especially drummer Mark Walker, who is a master of that idiom. It is always fascinating to me when you play or hear someone who is so great in a language that is not yours, but that you respect and love as Latin music is for me. It is a learning experience to play with these guys-that’s for sure. And it really is good for the audience, giving them something familiar and toe tapping to relate to.
I have been going to the Big Easy since the late 1970s when a good friend of mine, Jonathan Rome organized concerts and featured me with a fantastic rhythm section. I was so taken with the city that I even entertained moving there in the 80s. It is unlike anywhere else in the Western hemisphere with a vibe that is very beguiling. There is music everywhere with all kinds of different and unusual combinations to be had. This time, I did a workshop and concert at Loyola University with the fine band lead by John Mahoney as well as a gig with the same rhythm section I played with 20 years ago; James Singleton on bass, Johnny Vidakovich on drums and Steve Masakowski on guitar, at the same place where I used to play, a club called Snug Harbor. But what was really special and why I love New Orleans was what I did on one particular evening. First I sat in at a bluegrass jam session, followed by going to play with bassist Jim Singleton’s quartet that featured a steel slide guitar player. What a night-my cousin Mark (whose wife wife Darren plays blue grass guitar) counted 63 strings and one reed (a great title for a tune)-mandolins, guitars of all sizes and slap bass of course. The bluegrassers have a lot of fun and have signals like we do in jazz that they yell at each other in between the vocals. And the slide guitar player later that night was from another planet—actually playing chromatically on that instrument. Just a typical night on the hang in the Big Easy.
DUO TOUR WITH
Last year I recorded in quartet with pianist Marc Copland on the Hat Art label (Switzerland based) which has been around for years. During March we did a 12 city duo tour and new recording. Those familiar with my work know that I have played in duo with many pianists over the years including Richie Beirach, Joachim Kuhn, BoBo Stenson, Micu Narunsky, Phil Markowitz, Jim McNeely and Kenny Werner. Here again is another pianist who confirms my view that pianists are by far the best musicians on the planet. They are all different, but they are all equally well versed and highly literate about the music. Marc in particular has a beautiful touch and wonderful spontaneous harmonic sense with great inner line movement. We had a wonderful time and the audiences were very receptive. The quartet record is called “Lunar” and available through North Country distributors here in the States.
EAST COAST TOUR
WITH THE DAVE LIEBMAN GROUP
With the help of my good friend who books me, Mike Cherigo, we were able to put together about 15 dates on the East Coast from Washington D.C. through New England. Most notable was the Cape May Festival which was dedicated to Miles Davis. We played some of the repertoire I recorded on “Miles Away” in the mid 90s, which was a retrospective of Miles originals and tunes he played written by others, all arranged for my group( Silent Way, Fall, 81, All Blues, Solar). On our last tune, we were joined by saxophonist Bill Evans (whom I recommended to Miles when he returned from retirement in 1981) and the wonderful Wallace Roney for a version of “Footprints”. What was most memorable was a panel discussion (well lead by Ed Smith) during the weekend with Wallace, Bill and myself as the so called “young” guys and Jackie McLean along with Jimmy Heath as the veterans reminiscing about the Prince of Darkness. The stories were great and what surfaced above all was just how funny and humorous Miles was in many ways, and of course his amazing musical contributions and attitude towards music which was always curious and forward looking. My group is looking forward to recording by years end with Palmetto Records and also having the Dave Liebman Big Band recording released on Omnitone. Both of these labels are stalwarts of quality and integrity and I am glad to begin working with them.
As I conclude this year’s teaching at the Manhattan School of Music along with Phil Markowitz who has been splitting the courses with me, my first graduate class will be getting their Master’s degree. As those of us in the profession know, the level of musicianship among students these days is ridiculously high. They have been given everything in an organized fashion and it shows in their work. For my class on “A Chromatic Approach to Jazz Harmony and Melody” (actually called Masters of Jazz Seminar as the course name), the main thrust was to expose them to the thinking and sound of the system. It is gratifying to not that from what I could glean from the final compositions submitted by the students, I can see the message has somehow gotten across and that the majority of the student’s ears have changed and enlarged in the sense of how they hear consonance and dissonance. I will admit that there was a certain amount of bewilderment for awhile but exposure in music and art in general is really the key to opening hearts and minds-the intellectual comes after. In this case the main point is to have an expanded harmonic and melodic palette to choose from when improvising and especially while composing. Now it is up to them to use these tools for further creativity. Phil and myself wish our class the best in the future and we know that we will be seeing them again in the music world-they are great young men and women.
JOHN COLTRANE 75th
AT SYMPHONY SPACE-NYC-MAY 3
ENSEMBLE:WESTCHESTER UNIVERSITY,PA April29
Along with Mike Joe, Phil, Jabali and for this occasion bassist Cecil
McBee we will be performing the “Meditations
Suite”. I have been playing this
piece on five year anniversaries of Coltrane’s passing since 1987, adding
other saxophonists wherever I might be, trying to recreate the tribal atmosphere
of late Coltrane’s music. I have always contended that the late period of
Trane, from mid 1965 till his death has not been appreciated by audience or
musicians alike. True, the music is daunting in its sheer assault upon the
senses and the cacophony along with the dissonance is not in the comfort zone
for most ears. But the spiritual undertones of this period and “Meditations” specifically is for me quite apparent. Maybe sensing
the end was near (as the story has been passed down) or because there was no
where else for John to take the music, there is a feeling in this period that is
unlike any music I have ever experienced. My wife, Caris, transcribed what I
felt were the melodies and I added some harmonies on a few of the movements, but
in general the basic feeling of “Meditations”
is what I attempt to do in performance. I recorded it the last time we played it
in Symphony Space in 1995 commemorating the 30th anniversary of the
original recording. This is available on the Arkadia label. It should be a
wonderful experience to play the piece this time with Mike and Joe (also some
other Coltrane tunes will be featured) as well as with my friend Gunnar
Mossblad’s Saxophone Ensemble and rhythm section (THIRTY THREE SAXOPHONES all
arranged in parts and sections!!) at Westchester University near Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania a few days earlier. Symphony Space is located at 95th
St. and Broadway in New York and the concert is presented by a wonderful
organization, the World Music Institute, for those who live around the city to
be aware of since they present the best world music concerts around.
SKETCHES OF SPAIN
WITH THE WDR:GERMANY AND AUSTRIA
Musicians who have had the opportunity to play with the WDR in Koln, Germany are aware of the incredible situation which exists there. It is a state sponsored big band (along with two orchestras as well in that part of Germany, all paid for in part by a cultural tax on each person!!) that has had all the greats play and write for them over several decades. This is pristine situation from the musician’s standpoint-a good paying gig with a great band doing first class music under perfect conditions. And for the past few years it has been lead by Bill Dobbins whom I have had a long and prolific relationship over several decades. He has written original works as well as arranged some of my compositions for orchestra and big band. For this series of concerts in Koln, Germany, Vienna, Graz and Villach(Austria) I will be performing “Sketches of Spain”, the classic collaboration of Gil Evans and Miles Davis, which I did last year at the Manhattan School of Music(to be released as a CD in a few months). As I have said, Sketches is my favorite all time piece of music in any category and it is always a challenge and thrill to interpret it. The other part of the program will be an original work for the WDR and violinist Mark Feldman, who is exceptional on that instrument. We will also have one piece together.
THE DAVE LIEBMAN
GROUP IN BRASIL
After a month of performances on the East Coast during April (including the Cape May Jazz Festival dedicated to Miles Davis) we are going to Brazil as part of the Chivas Festival performing in Sao Paulo and Rio Di Janeiro. I was in those cities on my last tour with Miles in 1974 and remember the atmosphere which is so special and musical. Of course we will be playing a lot of the music from our recent GMN release, “The Unknown Jobim” (available through gmn.com).
WORLD VIEW TRIO
with JP CELEA and WOLFGANG REISINGER
With the release of our recording “Ghosts”, the third we have done which features our adaptations of standards on the French Nightbird label, the World View trio will be performing concerts in Coutenace and Paris, France as well as several duo concerts with drummer Reisinger in Vienna and other locations in Austria in May. Maurizio is a great saxophonist and good friend with whom I recorded a live record available on the Italian-based Soul Note label-titled “Live at Big Mamas” with drummer Daniel Humair and bassist Furio DiCastra in Rome last year. We will be performing at festivals in Rome, Livorgno and Ravenna in July. Finally in June and August I will be featured with the famous Swiss composer/pianist Geeorge Gruntz in a large orchestral/big band setting in Geneva and elsewhere in Switzerland. George has been continuously active for decades now as a writer and has had everyone in jazz play with his bands.
ASSOCIATION OF SCHOOLS OF JAZZ-13th ANNUAL JAZZ MEETING-HELSINKI,
At the beginning of July, the IASJ which I founded in 1989 and serve as Artistic Director will have its 13th Meeting in Helsinki. Participants will be from over 20 countries numbering around 120 students, teachers and administrators. Besides our normal events consisting of ensemble performances, lectures, master classes and jam sessions, I am looking forward to a meeting between myself and Finnish folk musicians for a concert. These annual meetings are always a great experience in both human relations and music. With the problems that we have in the world, it is a source of relief to be able to bring people together from various cultures to meet on the level playing field of jazz and positive creativity. I always feel a great sense of satisfaction when these meetings are finished, as if I and my associates have truly contributed something of worth to the bigger picture.
There is still time for interested saxophonists to attend my 15th annual Saxophone Master Class held at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania held in the beginning of August. Details are available through my web site.
CLINIC IN THE
My drummer, Marko Marcinko is very industrious and a really good organizer. For the past few years he has instituted a workshop held in Scranton, Pennsylvania. It is particularly targeted towards young musicians from high school and college. He has some good teachers and I will be doing a lecture at the Scranton Cultural Center during this designated week in early July. Contact Marko at email@example.com or www.scrantonculturalcenter.org
We are not immune to world events for sure. At the time of this writing it seems that my planned Coltrane tribute with Ric Margitza, George Garzone, Billy Hart, Santi Debriano and Phil Markowitz at the Red Sea Festival in Eilat, Israel will not take place. I cannot in good conscience take a group over with the situation as it is now. I am saddened by the fact that whatever joy and art we could bring to that part of the world is not possible and that so much tragedy is happening on both sides. Such a beautiful place with a deep history and wonderful human beings who are in the end, brothers- what a world!!
We lost the great baritone saxophonist Nick Brignola recently. Besides being an amazing player, Nick was one of the wittiest, funny and truly nice guys around. He will sorely be missed by all who knew him.
All the best for the summer months and safe traveling wherever you go-
Note on WEB SITES:
Some of my readers might recall that when I mailed out the newsletter in the beginning, the man who first helped me organize it for years was the jazz writer Bret Primack. He was also the man responsible for the great site “Bird Lives” which many musicians and fans really enjoyed for its humor and integrity. Bret has moved to Tuscon, Arizona and is constructing and overseeing web sites. He is great with the computer and of course from a musician’s standpoint he is informed and a true friend of the music. A site to see is that of Jean Michel Pilc at www.jmpilc.com-----from there you can access Bret at the Arcadian Arts link.