INTERVALS:THE NEWSLETTER OF DAVID LIEBMAN
HELLO TO ALL:
To new readers, I welcome you to my newsletter which I have been issuing several times a year since 1993. I encourage first time visitors to go to my web site offering 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
If you don’t wish to receive this newsletter you can unsubscribe through the web site (if that is how you receive it) 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. (Also when transferring the text to e-mail the format may appear uneven on some computers.)
HEALING POWER OF MUSIC
One of the biggest responses to the last newsletter was of course the shock about Bob Berg’s passing which still seems so unbelievable to all of us. The official memorial service for the public took place in January at St.Peter’s Church in Manhattan where many jazz musicians have been eulogized including Coltrane and other notables. The ceremony was incredible with music and words by among others Randy Brecker, Mike Stern, Mike Maineri, Joe Locke, Cedar Walton and myself. I must say that what has been traditionally referred to as the healing power of music was something which I never quite experienced in the way I did that day. After my wife and I entered the church and met Bob’s wife, sitting waiting for the ceremony to begin, I felt pretty down and depleted of energy. But as the music went on and the guys spoke, it really lifted me up. By the time Chick Corea’s video tribute was shown at the end with Bob playing in the background, I felt more at peace and could sense a feeling of community with everyone. A few weeks later, there was a memorial service at the club Birdland for the mother of one of the owners, an older woman, but I had the same feeling. There was a book recommended to my by my first mentor in the late 1960s, drummer Pete LaRoca, written by a Sufi mystic, Inayat Khan, which beautifully describes the role of music in the cosmos and its power beyond sound. Sometimes being so involved in the making of music, musicians can easily forget the spiritual aspects of what drew them in the first place. This book is something that I give to my advanced students as a kind of blessing for their future and can be seen at a site called www.rosanna.com under Sufi Message-the Mysticism of Sound.
Just to mention another passing of Tom Boras, who headed the jazz studies at New York University for years. In the 1970s Tom did arrangements of several of my compositions for big band. In fact he was the first arranger to do this and inspire me to continue soliciting arrangements resulting in the performances and soon to be released recording of my big band. My condolences to all of Tom’s colleagues and family.
VIRTUAL RECORING:PRO TOOLS
In the last newsletter I mentioned that I was recording with my group. This was not the first time I used the Pro Tool recording and editing system, but it was by far the most extensive to date. For those not familiar with it, this means that you record directly into the computer which translates to complete control of every aspect of the process. It isn’t a matter of what you can’t do, it’s just a matter of the combination of the engineer’s expertise and imagination as to what is possible. I hesitate to spill the beans to those readers who are avid music lovers concerning what you are likely listening to these days because of systems like Pro Tools and the way they can correct, manufacture, improve, change and in general, alter the original recorded music. Philosophical questions obviously arise: does this mean that musicians who are not up to level can fix things that would reflect poor musician ship; is it fair to call what we do improvised music when it can and will be fixed to be perfect; and on and on? This is understandable in the pop area, but for jazz?? I have no answers for these questions but I do know that if it is available, most recording artists will use it. One might think that recording live is a more honest representation of the artist’s skills, but the truth is that live tapes can be handled the same way in the studio after the fact. To be fair this is not so much different than other art forms such as painting, writing, sculpture, etc., when an artist can continually edit and perfect the product until acceptable. We can now do that in the studio depending upon patience, time and money…for better or worse!!
TEACHING THE YOUNG
I have always said that I have the greatest respect for those who teach young people, something which I really haven’t done much of to any degree. This is especially true for music, not considered a necessity for youngsters. My daughter Lydia has a talented friend who plays piano and wants to play tenor, so I gave him his first saxophone lesson. I must tell you it was the hardest lesson of my life…to get this young man to get a sound out of that horn. And on top of it, he is talented and quick to perceive. It goes without saying that patience is a necessary virtue, but there are as well specialized skills of verbalization that need to be cultivated. There is a thin line between giving too much information and not enough which is especially critical for a young person learning an instrument. My respect for teachers of the young has grown even more.
AWARDS, POLLS ET AL
Writing about teaching the young and the inadvertent messages we send to our students, I have some comments about the award system we have become so used to. I was recently nominated for some “best of” poll and as some of you know I received a Grammy nomination a few years ago in one category. I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit that of course it is nice to receive approval, especially from one’s peers (although that kind of poll is rare). Whether it has any real effect on one’s career is also highly debatable. I am strongly opposed to “the best” kind of awards, whether it be polls, by a committee or worst of all in what is known as adjudication, which is normal fare at school festivals for choosing the best band or soloist, etc. I can’t think of a worse message to send young people interested in music that it is a contest or like playing football. In the case of adults, I would hope they know better. There’s nothing wrong with certificates of merit, mentions of excellence, commendations, etc., but to couch things in terms of best (and by implication, worst or not up to grade) is unnecessary and may even be harmful. This system has a long history in classical music, but after all that is a world which glorifies the individual. In my opinion it doesn’t belong in jazz which by its very nature has a premise of cooperative group playing as well as a strong spiritual basis. My thoughts on this subject might appear naïve to some, but it just doesn’t make sense to me.
ROOTS:LATE TRANE and ELVIS
For years, cassettes were passed around with radio broadcasts from the Half Note club in New York of the Coltrane Quartet from 1965. They have found their way to various bootleg LPs but not in any organized fashion whereby an interested listener could locate them. I finally had the chance during this horrendous winter to transfer these cassettes to CD and once again the music was a revelation. In 1965, after the success of A Love Supreme, Trane completely changed his music and eventually the personnel. As is usually true of an artist, it is during times of transition that the fire and heat increase, rough around the edges as the product might appear to be. These live tapes show Trane, McCoy, Jimmy and Elvin breaking everything apart. Eventually the music of that pivotal year would coalesce into the free period with Rashied Ali and Alice Coltrane. These tapes are incredible for depicting a man on the precipice.
On another side, if I really go back to my own musical roots, they exist in a box that my oldest friend Jed Luchow has in good keeping. My family was invited for Passover to his home to enjoy the Seder. He showed me a box of the 45s (singles) we used to collect, all catalogued under Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, even Ella singing Mack the Knife, etc. As I told me daughter Lydia, if anyone ever asks where her dad came from musically, just point to that box at my friend Jed’s house. That box and what it implies predates jazz in my life by several years. I remember keeping my own Top 25 of the week and also how ruthless my friends and I were in trading 45s---“One Little Richard and a Gene Vincent for that new Jerry Lee Lewis!!” In any case that was how I got close to the tenor sax in the first place since it was so dominant in early rock’n’roll.
IF I HAD TEN MILLION IN THE BANK
A few years ago and again just recently one of the circle of musicians I play with was “plucked” from a scheduled project because he was offered a lucrative gig with somebody from the “other side”, meaning the pop world. Of course, I nor anyone can say to a musician who earns his living as a player that he should stay with a $50 gig for the sake of principle and reject the $2000 gig (just using any numbers). I understand and would probably do the same thing myself, but I have to admit that it bothers me when some pop guy calls and everyone jumps. I know it’s fashionable to musically “cross over” these days and after all some of these musicians are ok musically, but to me the aesthetic is completely different from what we do. Sure we would like to sell our music, but that isn’t the main point whereas in commercial music it is. What bothers me is the feeling that when they need some heavies, people who have spent their lives disciplining themselves to be the best musicians anywhere, which is what jazz people are, and all for little material rewards, these folks come prancing over to the other side of the tracks and raid the property, waving money and some star power around. And of course the musician in question always says something to the effect:”Oh, I really dig his (or her) music. It’s heavier than you think!!” Sure!! I recall years ago speaking with pianist Richie Beirach, speculating about the business and options we might pursue. He would remark that a good test is to ask yourself whether you would do such and such a project or whatever if you had ten million in the bank. This may be a bit of an exaggeration and I might be considered old fashioned and close minded in this respect, but this is just a feeling I have. I don’t think that is a bad question to ask oneself every once in awhile.
SAXOPHONE MASTER CLASS
This year is my sixteenth of the Saxophone Master Class held at East Stroudsburg University near my home in Pennsylvania. I have had approximately 200 saxophonists attending since 1988. I am glad about this number of students who have been able to spend time with me going deeper into matters which ordinary clinics and one time lessons just don’t allow for. Such students are the reason I have continued research and refining of Joe Allard’s concepts about the main principles of playing. Also I have covered a lot of jazz material including transcription, performance and composition as well as seeing videos and hearing rare tapes of Trane and others.
As I have done every four years, this next session in August is what I refer to as a reunion, meaning past attendees are invited back to go further in depth. I will review their work and of course delve into the material from A Chromatic Approach to Jazz Melody and Harmony, the book I wrote which serves as the text for the Master’s Degree class I teach at the Manhattan School of Music.
Therefore interested students for the next session in the summer of 2004 should please contact me in January and send a tape of their playing. I am considering the idea of offering a few extra days for those already here as part of the sax master class as well as allowing non-saxophonists to attend only this session in order to do a complete in depth maser class on the chromatic approach. I would appreciate some feedback on this idea ---would some of you be interested in such a specific master class during the summer?
After ten years of doing the newsletter, the response I have been receiving has been increasing. I appreciate this positive feedback and also some very heartfelt responses to some of the things I have written about. It’s a strange phenomenon but when I used to mail out several hundred, at quite an expense I might add, it was a concrete feeling since I had to organize the postage, mailing, etc. But with e mail and the press of a button, the newsletter seemingly goes out into the void and one is never sure it goes anywhere in the same way as hard copy. I guess this is what they mean by “virtual” world. In any case, again thanks for reading and responding.
Last year it was Poland…this year Budapest, Hungary. I was invited by the Budapest Music Center to play and record a piece with their Jazz Orchestra, which was premiered last year at the European Broadcaster’s Union concert, an organization of radio stations across Europe. These past years have seen an incredible amount of cross cultural events in all the arts as a result of the opening of the Eastern countries, the advent of the Euro and the general integration of economies which is occurring so rapidly in Europe. The piece, titled the Wayfarer written by Kornel Kovacs was wonderfully written. What was so satisfying about my days in Budapest was a look into their incredible tradition of both folk music and composition that is part of their culture. Bartok is the most well known and for my taste, the premiere composer of the 20th century, but there are others, for example Leo Weiner and Gyorgy Ligetti whose “Piano Etudes” written a few years ago are extraordinary. I heard a premiere of a piece written for orchestra and trumpeter Markus Stockhausen (son of the famous German composer) by the “new” Bartok, Peter Eotvos, who also conducted the concert which included two Debussy pieces. Just to give you an idea of what my concert was like, besides the Wayfarer, the big band played Stravinsky’s Ebony Concerto and another premiere of a piece by Eotvos for trombone and big band…all in all a rather unusual program for a supposed “jazz “ concert. The people at the BMC are representing both Hungarian contemporary classical and jazz on CD as well as beginning the task of cataloguing all available Hungarian works. Some of you might be familiar with the pioneering studies and recordings done by Bartok and Kodaly in researching folk tunes throughout Hungary and Turkey. Also the Kodaly system of solfegge is taught to all students at the elementary level. I also got to hear and even play a few tunes with a wonderful trio of Zoltan Lantos on violin, Mihaly Dresch on woodwinds and flutes and Gabor Juhasz on guitar playing an interesting mixture of Indian and Hungarian music. This is a rich culture and I am so glad that I was exposed to it. In fact my grandfather on my mother’s side was Hungarian, so there are some roots there. I have quite a box of recordings to listen to.
I was accompanied in my activities by a wonderful gentleman from the BMC, Gyorgy Wallner. We got into a discussion about “The Pianist” which I wrote about last year in connection with my trip to Poland, and just recently viewing the movie which was quite an experience He suggested that I read ”Fateless” by Imre Kertesz which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2002. Holocaust books are an entire industry and one can naturally be reluctant to read yet another book depicting the horror. But as Gyorgy said and I concur after reading it, “Fateless ” is very special because it was written from the standpoint of a Jewish teenage boy from Budapest sent to Auschwitz. Being that age, his unique vantage point combines naiveté and innocence concerning what was happening to his world. The seemingly ordinariness of it all amidst the horror, man’s fate and history all intertwine to an extraordinary degree in this compelling book. In a certain way, the Holocaust was the pivotal event of the 20th century. When all else is forgotten the enormity of this event will remain vivid.
Playing for so many years in duo with Richie Beirach in the 70s and 80s has I suppose made me a sort of specialist in that particular idiom. I have written in previous newsletters about the recording (Bookends) and tour with Marc Copland. Recently I was invited to play an evening with Ted Rosenthal, a maiden voyage with a wonderful pianist. Piano-sax duo is the most challenging situation for me since every note and nuance is heard without the cover of drums. I was invited by pianist Jean Marie Machado to do a few concerts in France and was very pleased at the excellent music he wrote for us. One of the great things about playing so much with European musicians is that they incorporate the world music influence not as just another style to play, but as a by product of their own roots, in this case Moroccan, Portuguese and of course French. These types of influences are not something I would readily encounter in the States nor would I instigate such music myself in this present period of my life Back in the 70s with Lookout Farm, I passed through an Indian period with tablaist Badal Roy quite before it was in vogue to do such things. With Machado, I played some Portuguese music called “fado”, beautiful, singable melodies from that culture. I look forward to more projects with Jean Marie.
I spent a wonderful week teaching at several conservatories by day and touring Holland for performances with the group Nimbus, lead by a young pianist, Wolfert Bredrode, along with an old friend, one of the main jazz drummers in Europe, Eric Ineke. The instrumentation is unique-two drummers, piano, myself on soprano, clarinet and bass clarinet, cello and guitar with a lot of reverb effects. The music does not miss a bass since it is so textural and heavily influenced by the “ECM” sound. Overall, it was a very different atmosphere than I am used to and quite enjoyable. As I understand it, the recording we made is nominated for a Dutch Grammy
DLBB:DAVE LIEBMAN BIG BAND
Standing in front of a big band must feel in a way like a quarterback in football with all those guys fronting you. What a feeling, especially with the soprano which I am using exclusively with the band to give it a unique sound. I have been fortunate over the years beginning with the aforementioned Tom Boras, to have talented arrangers from notables like Jim McNeely and Vince Mendoza to guys like Ed Sarath from the University of Michigan, Alan Baylock with the Air Force Airmen of Note, trombonist Pete McGuiness, Bill Warfield, Scott Reeves and others, take my original tunes and put them in the big band setting. The material traverses my entire career with tunes from the Lookout Farm period through Quest up to my present group. There is a lot of woodwind writing and the colors and rhythmic feels are constantly varied. The twist in the repertoire is that there are different arrangers, but all my compositions, something a bit unusual. We performed at Blues Alley in Washington D.C., Chris’ Café in Philadelphia, the Deer Head Inn in Delaware Water Gap, PA and for the finale several nights at Birdland in New York which specializes in big bands. Saxophonist and long time collaborator Gunnar Mossblad is the point man, putting the guys and the music together and as always with Gunnar, I am deeply appreciative. The rhythm section is Tony Marino, Vic Juris and Marko Marcinko from my working group with Jim Ridl on piano and keyboards. The horns are made up of the best New York can offer so the sections and other soloists are top notch. As much work as it takes to organize, and obviously the pay is not the greatest for everyone involved, I hope to fire up the DLBB every year or so for gigs. Closely aligned to the big band activity was a concert at Lehigh University where trumpeter Bill Warfield adapted the entire recording that I did a few years ago with Pat Metheny, Billy Hart and Cecil McBee on Arkadia titled “Water-Giver of Life” for a big band version. The suite was composed around one opening them and is a programmatic piece depicting the element of water in various manifestations. It is one of my most extended works and Bill’s arrangement did it justice. I hope to record this version some time and also to conclude my depiction of the other elements:earth, air, and fire in the future.
HEADS UP-to check out
HAL GALPER’S FORWARD MOTION
Hal Galper’s playing credits are among the heaviest in the jazz pianist business having worked steadily for years with both Cannonball Adderley and Phil Woods. He also lead a live recording session with Mike and Randy Brecker considered a classic among musicians and wrote a book on touring and getting gigs which is the most concise and clear review of what it takes to do business in the jazz world. Hal is a real self starter who at one point decided to take business matters into his own hands. He booked his trio all over the world using the computer to organize and facilitate contacts, way before it was common. Coming from an older generation, it was quite an undertaking to learn what he needed to know.
Throughout the years he has written articles and delivered master classes concerning his theory of “forward motion”. In short it concerns the rhythmical shapes of lines, groupings, accents and such things that go into being able to play variation upon variation of an idea. When I was playing my first major jazz gigs with drummer Pete LaRoca in 1969, the seemingly unending ideas he played astounded me and seemed so complicated. When I asked how he did it, the reply was that basically he knew three things, but he could do them upside down, backwards, any which way. Hal’s book deals with this way of thinking in very specific musical terms. It is clear and well written with anecdotes from the masters he played and met along the way. Most important, it covers a subject that to my knowledge has not been written about in such a way, in a period when everyone and his cousin has a book out on something, most of which are rehashes of the same stuff. It will soon be in hard copy from Jamey Aebersold but you can down load it at www.forwardmotionpdf.com
BOOKS AND MOVIES
I have a few friends who give me books as gifts which means it is a must read. One is my “bro” from Bordeaux, Jean Jacques Quesada and the other is guitarist Vic Juris. For my birthday Vic gave me “Q”, the autobiography of Quincy Jones. I looked at him sort of funny when he gave it to me, but he stared right at me and said “read it”. I wasn’t prepared to like it because as much as I of course respect Jones and love the famous Sinatra and Basie recording from the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas as well as Michael Jackson’s big hits that he produced, I just had a feeling he was kind of a sell out type guy. But this book, much like Miles Davis’ autobiography gives you a real taste of what the bebop days were like and how the musicians related to each other personally and musically. Also, his story of how he overcame a rough childhood to succeed is inspiring. This guy knows everyone in all walks of life. It is a great book which musicians and non-musicians will enjoy.
Sometimes on the plane there is a movie that you would have never seen on your own. Such was “The Emperor’s Club” with Kevin Kline playing a professor at a private school teaching ancient Roman history. It is a very inspiring movie about teaching in general with an ending that you would never expect. Highly recommended with great acting as well.
A new book by Jerry Coker called “Clear Solutions” available from Aebersold Publications is about how lines are constructed. Jerry, whose “Improvising Jazz” is the best selling jazz book of all time was from what I understand the first writer/teacher to use the II-V-I terminology and has been an influential teacher as well as wonderful saxophonist for years with many books to his credit. This book is a concise summary of many of the points Jerry has made over the years about line construction.
During the IAJE Convention in Toronto last January, I was interviewed in front of an audience by writer Howie Mandel for publication, supposedly in the June issue of Downbeat. Of course it has been edited down substantially, but Howie knows what is happening and we had a very lively conversation.
I always encourage new readers to go to my web site which has a lot of information. In the last newsletter I mentioned an article on “My Philosophy of Education” which now is fully re-edited and improved from a few months ago. It covers pedagogy as a whole, the responsibilities of both teachers and students and delves specifically into what I consider the important concepts and subjects in jazz teaching. I think it would be of interest to general readers as well as musicians. Another article on Jazz Rhythm is a review of my thoughts on that subject. There are as well some other new and edited articles which will be collected in a book to be published by Jamey Aebersold. These are under the Feature Articles section on my site:www.davidliebman.com/lieb
Peace to you all
MAY-Milan and Ferrara, Italy with the Clues Trio; 55 Bar in New York featuring guests Ellery Eskelin and Dave Ballou(one night each) with the group and Deer Head Inn, Deleware Water Gap, Pennsylvania with the Dave Liebman Group
JUNE-Dave Liebman Group at the Rochester, NY Jazz Festival; performances in Germany with Juergen Seefelder Group and big band music by Juergen Friedrich; four nights in Berlin with different groups featuring Andreas Schmidt, Peter Weniger, Jasper Van Hof and others in different settings; Canadian festival tour with drummer Steve Smith, saxophonist Mike Zilber, pianist Paul Nagel.
JULY-concert in Dublin, Ireland with the Ronan Guilfoyle Trio and Mike Buckley; concert in Bari , Italy with Danilo Rea and Paulino DallaPorta; Far North performances at the Stockholm Jazz festival, Club Neferttiti in Gothenburg, Sweden,Trondheim and Bodo, Norway (Lars Daniellsen, Jon Christensen, Bobo Stenson).
AUGUST-Saxophone Master Class performance at the Deer Head Inn; performance with the Brussels Jazz Orchestra, Belgium; opening the 25th anniversary of the Salfelden Festival, Austria, co-leading group with Wolfgang Reisinger featuring, Marc Ducret, Matt Garrison, Wolfgang Mitterer, Jean Paul Celea and Jamey Haddad; performances in Italy with the Alessandro Fabbri Group.