NON SEQUITOURS-DIFFERENT BUT THE SAME WITH ELLERY ESKELIN, JIM BLACK, TONY MARINO-Hatology (SWITZERLAND)
1 New Breed 6:18 by David Liebman
2 In The Mean Time 11:18 by David Liebman
3 Ghosts 8:06 by Albert Ayler
Total Time 1st set: 25:42
Non Sequiturs (Suite in 8 parts) by Ellery Eskelin 4 No Opening 2:28
5 Low Visibility 4:16
6 Main North 1:21
7 Uncertain Speech 1:42
8 Vertical Prose 2:07
9 Intended Poem 4:07
10 Tin Baroque 4:42
11 Adjusted Scatter 7:30
Total Time 2nd set: 28:22
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For our third recording, centers on Ellery’s expansive suite as the main repertoire. Over the years he has developed a com-positional style notable for its use of spe-cific rhythms to be played as written (often in counterpoint), leaving the pitch choice up to the improviser in the moment…a formula that ensures the music will be different every time. It takes quite a lot of concentration to stay on course in this setting because if you don’t check yourself, you might easily play fami-liar and cliched patterns that are automati- cally under your fingers, rather than in the moment.
My two contributions are older tunes. “New Breed” was written and recorded when I was with Elvin Jones in the early 1970s. It has also been recently recorded by my own big band on “As Always” (Mama Records). The title celebrated Elvin’s reaching out to our generation at that time after the departure of his peers, Joe Farrell and Wilbur Little from his group. “In The Mean Time” develops into a three way written conversation featuring Tony’ s bass followed by an odd meter vamp employing a melodic “hook” from the preceding rubato section. Albert Ayler’s “Ghosts” is one of the most famous anthems from the free jazz movement of the 1960s….a very open, tonal melody that serves as a vehicle for full blown and intense group improvisation.
David Liebman, May 23, 2011, Stroudsburg, PA USA
SKY CHANGES-DAVE LIEBMAN WITH MANHATTAN SCHOOL OF MUSIC CHAMBER JAZZ ENSEMBLE - Jazzheads
1-Sky Changes-Riccardo Del Fra
2-Tree Thrills-Riccardo Del Fra
3-South Africa (for viola and soprano sax)-Dave Liebman
4-L’Arbre-Christophe Del Sasso
5-Couleur-Christophe Del Sasso
#s 1,2,4,5 were commissioned by the Ensemble Intercontemporain and premiered in Paris at le Cite de Musique on Mar 12, 2009
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ABOUT THE PROGRAM
The worlds of jazz, rock, and contemporary music, which used to stand as separate and inviolate bastions, are slowly coming together, fusing as well with music from around the world, creating an ever-varied new expression of musical creativity. It is no longer so easy to answer the question "what kind of music is that?" At Manhattan School of Music, the Jazz Arts Program and Contemporary Performance Program are eagerly toasting the blurring of these dividing lines, and in celebration, for the first time, the student ensembles from these programs, the Chamber Jazz Ensemble and Tactus, are coming together for a performance of music that is creative and exciting, if hard to label. We hope that students in each program will plant seeds in the yard of the other, finding inspiration in each other's work and giving a new boost to the creativity that is forever bursting forth from their hearts and brains. -Daniel Grabois
The collaboration between Manhattan School of Music's Chamber Jazz Ensemble and Tactus for this concert was a lively, natural partnership. Both groups perform repertoire that merges the western and non-western classical canon with jazz and contemporary musical styles, attempting to fuse the improvisation, spontaneity and rhythmic vitality of jazz with the compositional procedures and techniques ernployed in classical traditions. Over the years, concerts by both ensembles featured existing repertoire by Igor Stravinsky, Milton Babbitt, Gunther Schuller, Aaron Copland, Charles Mingus, Terry Riley, Mary Lou Williams, and others. Both ensembles also regularly present new and original works, such as the compositions on this live concert recording. This collaboration has an additional exciting connection-the compositions performed were inspired by the artistry of Dave Liebman, Artist-in-Residence at Manhattan School of Music, whose longtime presence at MSM is a huge influence. -Justin DiCioccio
NOTES BY DAVE LIEBMAN
This music was first performed in 2009 at Cite de la Musique in Paris with the Ensemble Intercontemporain, conducted by Susanna Mallki. The program was initially instigated by the tuba player in the ensemble, Arnaud Boukhitine with whom I had previously recorded. Susanna, who was familiar with my work, chose two of my solo saxophone pieces to use as raw material for extended compositions. We discussed possible composers and I suggested Christophe Dal Sasso and Riccardo Del Fra, two musicians I have also worked with in the past, who have experience and interest in contemporary music.
For an improviser, itis always a step up the jazz food chain to play with a classical ensemble, especially one as famous and skilled as the Ensemble Intercontemporain, founded by Pierre Boulez, one of the giants of 20th century contemporary music. My interest in this style of music has been part of my oeuvre for decades, most evidenced by my decades-long association with pianist Richie Beirach. I have done a good deal of playing in this idiom and have an ongoing interest in the harmonic ideas developed during the 20th century, in jazz and contemporary music. The course I teach for the Jazz Arts Masters / Doctoral degree program at the Manhattan School of Music is based on my book, A Chromatic Approach to Jazz Harmony and Melody, which directly reflects my studies in this area and its adaptation to the jazz vernacular.
My thanks to the Ensemble, Susanna and Herve Boutry for allowing us to use this music for our program and, from what I understand, for inviting me to be the first jazz artist to perform with the group-a great honor for me; to Riccardo and Christophe for their wonderful and hard work; to my long time conductor / amigo Justin DiCioccio who is always ready for a challenge; and to Randy Klein who knows no fear in his release schedule for Jazzheads. Recording music of this difficulty in a live setting is truly beyond the call of duty, so my sincerest appreciation to the incredible performers who go beyond the job title of "students."
Sky Changes and Tree Thrills by Riccardo Del Fra
Sky Changes was born facing the sea and the skies of Normandy in a house called the Black Rocks, where Marcel Proust and other writers liked to stay. The music for this work, inspired by the striking improvisation of Dave Liebman on Colors from the album, The Distance Runner, is haunted by reflections on the force and unpredictability of the natural elements. In the writing process, I gave a lot of thought to the interplay of tones and movements in the orchestra. A feeling of tonality is sketched out as the introductory motivic cell generates a central theme, and the ensemble plays jazz- inspired rhythmic patterns as background for the saxophone solo.
Tree Thrills is a reference to Liebman's improvisation on the soprano in the tune, The Tree, which he conceives of as a metaphor for artistic evolution. It is about the tree and the allegories it evokes. Each of the three parts of this work uses a different system of intervals, an idea dear to Dave. In this piece, which has no real tonal center, I pay homage to the great saxophonists of three eras of jazz history: Lester Young, Charlie Parker, and John Coltrane by including quotes from famous solos inthe background. The soprano's improvisations run through the piece, punctuated with gestures (often ascending) from the orchestra's soloists-double bass, piano, and the various percussion instruments-which have a dialogue with the saxophone on their own. Silence, already present at the beginning of the piece, reigns through the last part.
South Africa by Dave Liebman
South Africa, a duet for viola and soprano saxophone, was written during the period of Nelson Mandela's release from prison, a historic event I wanted to celebrate. It was composed for the specific texture of viola and soprano saxophone with a small section at the end for improvisation.
L'arbre and Couleur by Christophe Del Sasso
L'arbre is based on Dave Liebman's improvised piece, The Tree: Roots, Limbs, Branches, and like Liebman's, it is constructed in three parts. Roots includes the main melodic fragments of the piece and uses dissonant intervals to define musical tensions. The rest of the work carries forth the same melodic and harmonic system as this first part. Following that, there is a succession of motifs which develop progressively towards an explosive texture. At the end, the intervals of a fourth and a fifth are explored.
Based on the harmonic colors found in jazz- and inspired by Dave Liebman's Colors: Red, Gray, Yellow--Couleur begins with a tonal consonance. A dialogue is established between the orchestra and the improviser throughout the piece. The constant repetition of several rnotivic cells and the superimposition of polyrhythms plunges the listener into a deep red color. The second movement textually reprises Liebman's improvised melody. This song is harmonized with somber colors approaching grey, spoken by the strings. Thus, there is immediate interplay created between the soloist and the ensemble's response. In the end, the polyrhythmic ideas reappear, revivifying the dialogue between the ensemble and the soloist. This striking passage explores the depths of the abyss.
NEIGHBORS-NANCY REED WITH DAVE LIEBMAN, PHIL MARKOWITZ, STEVE GILMORE, BILL GOODWIN-Vectordisc
2-This Is Always-Warren
3-You Must Believe In Spring-Bergmans
4-The Street Of Dreams-Toung/Lewis
6-East Of The Sun-Ash
7-A Time For Love-Mandel
8-While We're Young-Wilder
10-Love Thy Neighbor-Gordon/Revel
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"East Of The Sun"
Neighbors… a user-friendly word that everyone knows as a fact of life. Certainly one hopes for “good” neighbors, meaning no problems. In the case of the musicians on this recording, there’s a little more to the meaning. For a variety of reasons that occurred decades ago, the area of Northeast Pennsylvania where we live, collectively known as the Ponono Mountains, has and still is blessed with an abundance of jazz musicians, both internationally and locally known. Chief of course are Phil Woods, Bob Dorough and Urbie Green, but with teachers and students as well as the venerable club, the Deer Head Inn, we are blessed with a lot of musicians in our proverbial ”backyard.” Nancy Reed and her husband Spencer have been fixtures on the scene for decades. Everyone knows Nancy for her incredibly soulful sound, relaxed singing style and impeccable phrasing. When a pianist on the caliber of Phil Markowitz remarks that he has total freedom with his “voice leading” (technical talk) because Nancy is so on the game,” this is a big compliment. “Neighbors” was my idea to get Nancy front and center with my man Phil and Phil Woods’ long time drum/bass team of Bill Goodwin and Steve Gilmore, two of the most experienced jazz players in the world. Further more, everyone from my generation knows the Coltrane-Johnny Hartman collaboration from the 1960s. First of all is Hartman’s deep, silky smooth voice coming out of the Billy Eckstine influence. On top of that is how gentle and lyrical the Coltrane Quartet played on this recording, such a different approach for a group so identified with furiously intense music and a deeply chromatic harmonic language. This is a jewel in the crown of Trane, something you could play for your grandmother. I always wanted to replicate that sound somehow, especially using the soprano sax with a female voice. Nancy and I carefully arranged the material, not to be too well worn, but somewhat familiar. Some highlights: “Love Thy Neighbor” is a little known tune that Trane recorded early on in his be-bop stage; “You Must Believe in Spring” has for me the deepest lyrics/prose that I know expressing so much, so well; “The Peacocks” is well known among jazz folks as a fiendishly difficult and memorable tune by Jimmy Rowles; another highlight for me is what I consider to be one of the greatest and most challenging harmonic compositions ever written, Jobim’s “Sabia” which we play straight-ahead, instead of the usual bossa feel. I love this record; I love Nancy’s singing and the way the band played, especially how we maintained a lyrical texture throughout. Thanks to the guys; to Kent Heckman for recording and giving us a good credit rating for so long; to our collective friend Bud Nealy for the photo; to Marty Mellinger for a great mixing session; and most of all to (SIR!!) Richard Burton for getting this music out to the world.
You can tell that the “neighbors” had a nice day together.
Stroudsburg, PA USA May 2011
IMPRESSIONS-DAVE LIEBMAN AND MARC COPLAND-Hatology (Switzerland)
1. Cry Want (Jimmy Giuffre)
2. Maiden Voyage (Herbie Hancock)
3. Impressions (John Coltrane)
4. WTC (David Liebman)
5. Blue In Green (Miles Davis/Bill Evans)
6. Lester Leaps In (Lester Young)
7. When You're Smiling (Mark Fisher)
8. Blackboard (Marc Copland)
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UNSPOKEN-DAVE LIEBMAN AND RICHIE BEIRACH-Out Note Records (France)
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UNSPOKEN-Liner notes by Lewis Porter
Liebman and Beirach—forty plus years of musical history and collaboration! There are other saxophonists and pianists who have worked together as a duo (for example,Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock toured and released a CD in ’97), but I don’t know of any with such a long track record. Dave and Richie’s previous duo albums were Forgotten Fantasies (1975),Omerta (1978, released in Japan), The Duo Live (Germany, 11 April 1985; and transcribed completely in a book by Bill Dobbins), Double Edge (standards in Copenhagen, recorded just ten days later, 21 April 1985), and Chant. That last was in 1989, so it’s high time to have another offering from them.
This CD has a dreamy, while at the same time dramatic quality. Both feel it is their best duo yet. The depth of sound is enhanced by the luxuriant piano tone, captured so well by master engineer Walter Quintus. Richie is playing what he describes as “an amazing 25-year old Bechstein piano” The repertoire is an unusual mix of styles. 1. Invention (Aram Khachaturian; arranged by Beirach) The CD opens with their treatment of this Invention, known in full as "A Glimpse Of The Ballet; Adagio From The Ballet 'Gayaneh." Beirach has loved the piece ever since he heard it played by strings in Kubrick’s classic film 2001. A master of pedal effects, Richie leaves the sustain pedal down at the opening to create a shimmering feel. He begins his piano solo slowly and rhapsodically. Dave comes in subtone with freely improvised counterpoint. The solos are in Bb minor. At 4:25, Dave starts a melody and Richie follows him in the distinctive way the two have of reading each other's minds.
2. All The Things You Are (Jerome Kern; arranged by Beirach) This rendition of the classic standard flows naturally from the first piece. Richie’s harmonies enrich and alter this familiar piece, giving it an edge of mystery. His friend, the late pianist Bill Evans, said you need to make standards your own, something the duo is known for. Richie worked on this arrangement for a long time and he has certainly succeeded. His version is keyless, expanding on the already wide-ranging twelve tone harmonic motion of Kern’s original with a vamp at the beginning, using Db 7sus/Dbmaj b5. After the initial theme, Dave solos on the vamp as well. The piano solo starts around 2:40 and brings back some of the Kern song, especially at 2:58 and further on. When Dave returns at 3:55, he plays the original melody again.
3. Ballad 1 (Liebman) Dave describes this, modestly, as “a simple small phrase that I needed for a record date some years ago.” But like all of his compositions it has harmonic depth. This piece is included in the David Liebman Anthology (Advance Music, 2006), which includes sixty of his unique creations, notated in detail (many with piano voicings). Dave plays tenor, very softly, subtone-like.
4. Awk Dance (Beirach) During the ‘70s, while touring the USA in a van for thousands of miles with their first group, "Lookout Farm," Richie and Dave had fun making up their own slang. “Eek” was uptight, not hip, classical, while “Awk” was hip and jazz. This “Awk Dance” starts with a groove for a change of pace with Lieb on tenor again. Richie’s solo at 1:10 is slightly reminiscent of the darker side of Lennie Tristano, especially as it goes into a kind ofdouble time. Dave raises the temperature level with some screaming intensity. At about 5:40, Richie becomes more active as Dave fades out. 5. New Life (Beirach) About two years ago, Richie had become so overweight that his doctor told him he had acute diabetes. The doctor put Beirach on an extremely restricted health diet, and emphasized that his life was at stake! To Richie’s credit, he held to the diet and has lost great deal of weight. This is the “New Life” referred to here. This one has a theme that’s played by the two in unison—Beirach fills it in with pointillistic dots of sound, with that texture continuing for the first two minutes. He describes the effect as being slightly reminiscent of the modern classical music of Takemitsu or Boulez. Then it opens up with more space, and Richie plays contrapuntal melodies behind Dave. When the theme returns at the end, Richie backs it with big chords. 6. Waltz for Lenny (Micu Narunsky-arr. by Liebman) Narunsky, an Israeli pianist with a second career as a winemaker, is Dave’s good friend. He wrote this in honor of “Lenny” Bernstein. Dave and Richie state the theme in unison. Richie does a lot of interesting things here. At 5:14 he creates dramatic percussive chords, an effect resulting from pedal usage and a special kind of attack. At 5:50 you can hear him repeat this effect a few times. At 6:22 one of Richie's distinctive polychords appears, followed by what sounds like a glimpse of Bill Evans’ famous “Peace Piece.” 7. Tender Mercies (Liebman) Dave describes this as “one of my simplest ballads. ‘Tender Mercies’ is kind of a ‘religious’ term, I guess....meaning thanks for the tender mercies, the everyday things we take for granted, like living another day, love and family.” It introduces some new sounds for this CD—Richie on the piano strings and Dave on his wooden flute. A written theme (published in the Anthology) enters at 1:14. Richie’s solo is a kind of free rhapsody in the style of the theme. When Dave returns with the theme at 5:40 the effect is quite dramatic. Dave slides up to the last note with Richie placing some interesting stuff under it. 8. Transition (John Coltrane) This free improvisation begins right off with a lot of activity, sounding almost like we’re catching the two musicians in progress. Richie goes into a solo right away, again invoking Tristano at his most “out.” At 4:22 Dave goes into the theme “Transition,” originally recorded by Coltrane in June 1965.
By the way, it is interesting that both Dave and Richie studied with Lennie Tristano, though a bit unsuccessfully.....Dave for about a year and Richie for three lessons, way before they knew each other. They were both teenagers at the time, and they found Tristano to be unnecessarily harsh and judgmental, not to mention that he charged $20 per lesson, even though he sometimes sent you home after three minutes! Lennie had Richie singing solos from recordings, and didn’t even let him touch the piano. Finally he advised Richie to get out of music—luckily for all of us, he ignored Lennie’s advice. 9. Hymn For Mom/Prayer For Mike (Liebman) Dave wrote “Hymn” (also published in the Anthology) when his Mother died in 2005. It begins with Beirach in a mystical/Messiaen mode, very spare. At 2:37 he plays a sequence of harp-like arpeggios. Dave comes in gently around 3:50. After the piece ends at 6:23, Dave begins “Prayer” on tenor, very intense followed by Richie stating the written theme at 8:40. “Prayer For Mike" (Brecker) is dedicated to one of Dave's oldest compatriots, “when he was going through the final ‘try’ with his daughter giving her blood—as there was still a glimmer of hope for him.” Brecker had a rare and dangerous form of cancer that could be abated only if he received an exact blood match (not just the blood “type”). His family put out a call to the jazz community but no exact match was ever found. I ran into Mike—we’d been introduced through Dave—when I accompanied a friend to the Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital in April 2006, and Mike explained to me that his daughter was a “half match,” better than nothing, and that he did feel a bit better thanks to the transfusion. I later read that he sat in on one tune at Herbie Hancock’s concert that June, so there was hope that he might make it. But the cancer came back and Brecker died in January 2007.
There are deep feelings expressed in this last track, and throughout the CD. Liebman and Beirach—“Unspoken,” indeed. After a lifetime making music together, what need for speaking? Lewis Porter July 2011
Lewis Porter is a pianist, author (best known for his biography on John Coltrane) and jazz professor at Rutgers University in Newark, NJ, USA. Videos of him performing with Liebman are at www.lewisporter.com. Liebman’s autobiography, What It Is, was written with Porter’s assistance, and will be published by Scarecrow Press around January 2012.
KNOWINGLEE - Dave Liebman, Lee Konitz (saxophones); Richie Beirach (piano) - Out Note Records)
1. In Your Own Sweet Way (Dave Brubeck) – 8:38
2. Don’t tell Me What Key (Lee Konitz/Dave Liebman/Richie Beirach) – 5:40
12 What Is This Thing Called Love.( Cole Porter) – 7:07
Lee Konitz: Alto saxophone, soprano saxophone (Track 3,7,10) (Track 7 & 10 Lee is heard on the left channel) Dave Liebman: Soprano & Tenor Saxophone Richie Beirach: Piano
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AMAZING-We3 with Adam Nussbaum (drums); Steve Swallow (bass); Dave Liebman (saxophones) - Kind Of Blue Records
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GUIDED DREAM - Dave Liebman with the Brussels Jazz Orchestra - Prova Records
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Notes by Dave Liebman
I have a very clear recollection as to when I first met the Brussels Jazz Orchestra. I was invited by them to perform at the Middleheim Festival in Belgium in 2003. As usual I sent the music prior and arrived for a rehearsal the day before the performance. I was amazed at the level of playing right from the first note. We could’ve played the concert right then. The soloists were first class; the rhythm section was on the money and the general vibe was very warm and open. Needless to say, the gig was fantastic and we make plans to go forward. Here, you have the live recordings of our next encounter together. I might add that recording live with a big band is one of the more difficult situations an artist encounters because there are so many variables at work to get the music right. The BJO was definitely up for the challenge.
I have never (and don’t think I will) written a big band chart. To me, it just appears too daunting. I have the utmost respect for those artists who pursue this direction. Over the past decades I have been fortunate to have many arrangers, from well known arrangers to teachers at various institutions around the world volunteer to take my original compositions and put them into the big band context. It is a privilege to have such talent approach these tunes, which for the most part I have recorded prior in a small group context and create a fresh scenario for the music. I don’t give instructions, just suggestions, a lead sheet and any recorded version I might have for the piece. All I ask for is that they be completely creative and write with no holds barred. (Of course, the technical demands on whatever band undertakes to perform these charts is immense as each arranger puts his best foot forward, so to say.)
GAZELLE was arranged by the legendary Swiss pianist George Gruntz with whom I have had the pleasure of collaborating over the years. George writes in a very free way and knows how to get a band energized through notes on the page. He was perfect for this “time, no changes” head based on the interval of the fourth, recorded on “Trio + One” with Jack DeJonette and Dave Holland for Owl Records in the late ‘80s. The title suggests the speed and fleetness of the gazelle racing across the Serengeti.
MD is from the first recording on ECM in the ‘70’s with my first group as leader, “Lookout Farm” and is a snapshot of the dual sides of former boss Miles Davis’ music and personality…quiescent and fiery; peaceful and intense, some sort of dual personality at times (as in the Gemini twins, Miles’ zodiac sign.). The great arranger/educator Bill Dobbins took much of that original recording, especially what pianist Richie Beirach played and incorporated it into the arrangement.
OFF FLOW was recorded by my regular working group of the past twenty years on our first CD “Turn It Around” (Owl Records). It was directly inspired by Hermeto Pascal’s music, especially how his rhythms feel, so out of the ordinary, yet so right. Chuck Owens, who is the head of the jazz department at a university in Florida took the piece and painted the colors you hear.
PAPOOSE was arranged by J.C.Sanford who contacted me and offered his services. As I do in these cases, I sent a CD with possible tunes on it and let him decide on what he would like to do. This was recorded by my group on a CD containing songs dedicated to my daughter, who was two years old at the time, “Songs for My Daughter” (Soul Note). A lyrical waltz with a lot of harmonic turns is nicely captured by J.C. with a wonderful sense of color and sectional writing.
OFF A BIRD arranged by the late Ed Summerlin (who heard me play it at the Knitting Factory in New York and asked if he could arrange it) is a time, no changes head written for Charlie Parker and a vehicle for other band members to solo.
PICTURE OF DORIAN GREY/GUIDED DREAM were originally piano pieces arranged by Swedish musician Sten Ingelf who definitely realized the 20th century implications compositionally in the music with an emphasis on color and texture. They are named after the Oscar Wilde novel and a poem by Jorge Luis Borges respectively.
MOVE ON SOME arranged by the late Tom Boras is a straight ahead jazz tune with a Giant Steps type opening progression and a Latin based bridge, serving again as a vehicle for members of the band, which they tear up!!
Finally, Duke’s IN A SENTIMENTAL MOOD once again arranged by Bill Dobbins gives you a sense of Ellingtonia and provides a great spotlight for a saxophone solo.
I appreciate this fine recording finally being released. My appreciation to Frank Vaganee for his leadership, truly excellent soloing and all the time spent mixing this project; to Koen Maes for taking care of all the logistics; to the recording crew for a great job; to the arrangers who gave of themselves; and finally to this great band of artists. You can’t ask for more.
AS ALWAYS (CD)- Dave Liebman Big Band under the direction of Gunnar Mossblad - Mama Records. Also available: DVD of these live performances
The Dave Liebman Big Band
Dave Liebman- featured soloist on all tunes, soprano saxophone, wooden flute & composer
Gunnar Mossblad- director, alto& soprano saxophone, flute, clarinet Charles Pillow- alto saxophone, oboe, flute Dave Riekenberg- tenor saxophone, flute, clarinet David Lown- tenor saxophone, clarinet Jay Brandford- baritone saxophone, bass clarinet (trks 1, 2, 4, 6) Chris Karlic- baritone saxophone, bass clarinet (trks 3, 5)
Danny Cahn Bob Millikan Dave Ballou Patrick Dorian
Tim Sessions Scott Reeves- & alto flugelhorn Sam Burtis Jeff Nelson- bass trombone
Jim Ridl- piano/synthesizer Vic Juris- guitar Tony Marino- bass Marko Marcinko- drums
1. A Bright Place- 9:09
2. As Always- 9:30
3. Anubis- 14:38
4. New Breed- 7:44
5. Philippe Under the Green Bridge- 11:27
6. Turn It Around- 7:38
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NOTES BY DAVE LIEBMAN:
As I repeatedly say at DLBB performances, I have been very fortunate to have arrangers be interested enough in my compositions to put them in the big band context, something that to me personally is daunting. I just cannot imagine what you do when you have so many choices of voicings and colors. I get crazy with just a sax quartet! Usually, I give an interested arranger a recording of only the melodies of my tunes and ask them to choose a few that interest them. I follow up with the full recorded version and lead sheet-the rest is up to their imagination which I strongly encourage. As you will hear, the results are extraordinary and because there are so many diverse arranging concepts, the music is by nature very eclectic and wide ranging in sonorities and idiomatic direction. One note is that I have purposely restricted my big band playing to the soprano saxophone giving at least that color as a common denominator for the music we play.
My thanks to Andrew, Scott and Guri for their great arrangements and support. Most of all to Gunnar, not only for the great chart he did on a challenging piece of music, but also as my eternal friend and collaborator on books, videos, recordings and now as the leader of the DLBB. As always, thanks to my friend!
1-A BRIGHT PIECE: One of my first original tunes, this is really just a simple ditty with a vamp on the bridge in the Art Blakey Jazz Messengers tradition. You can tell it is an early piece when I had only a rudimentary understanding of piano voicings, because it is based on fourth interval chords (McCoy Tyner influence) moving stepwise down with a common tone line that fits over the various lydian scales. There’s nothing mysterious about the title—the music just had a real bright and major sound to it when it was conceived. I was fortunate that Elvin Jones liked playing this tune and it was recorded with him using three sopranos on “Merry Go Round” (Blue Note). Andrew came up with some really fresh ideas on what is a very basic composition.
2-AS ALWAYS: This was recorded with my group of the ‘80s, “Quest” with Richie Beirach (“Natural Selection”-Pathfinder) and is intended as a lyrical “love” waltz. I like the warmth that is implied in this expression meaning one’s love and gratitude is and will always be present. Pete’s arrangement is fittingly colorful and lush.
3-ANUBIS: In Egyptian mythology the jackal with this name is the guardian of the after life. When my daughter was young she was fascinated by Egyptian history and one day handed me a little color drawing that she said was “Anubis.” I put it on the piano to inspire a composition with a Mid-East flavor. This has been recorded a few times with the same rhythm section in the DLBB as in my steady working group- Marko, Tony and Vic. The contrast of a rubato phrased melody over an odd meter vamp is the crux of the composition which Scott really captures. 4-NEW BREED: The piece was originally written for the Elvin Jones Group that I was part of with saxophonist Steve Grossman and bassist Gene Perla in the early ‘70s. The recording we did “Live at the Lighthouse” has become a minor classic for saxophonists and the ensemble tutti you hear is my actual solo from that track voiced by Scott Reeves for the sax section. When I wrote this for Elvin’s group I was thinking of the music from Tony Williams’ recording “Spring”-fast time with brushes, but Elvin slowed it down right at the first rehearsal in London. The title recognizes that Steve, Gene and I were a new generation coming after Coltrane’s time, which of course Elvin was and will always be associated with. Elvin said it reminded him of a combination of Duke Jordan and Monk—nice!!
5-PHILIPPE UNDER THE GREEN BRIDGE: This is definitely one of my more chromatic pieces, very much in the language I describe in my book “A Chromatic Approach to Jazz Melody and Harmony” (Advance Music). Recorded on “Manhattan Dialogues” (Zoho) in duo with Phil Markowitz, the title commemorates a visit to a Boston museum featuring “Monet in the 20th Century. I was stuck by the fact that this one painting was all green, which in the midst of all the other incredible Monet canvasses with his usual incredible array of colors, stood out dramatically. It just reinforces the notion of contrast and similarities in art and how one can use this principle so effectively. When we went into the gift shop, my wife Caris and I bought our daughter Lydia, who was very young at the time, a stuffed green frog which she promptly named Philippe and became her mascot for years. Gunnar also lifts some of my solo from the duo recording and uses Charlie Pillow’s wonderful oboe expertise as a foil to the soprano sax.
6-TURN IT AROUND: The title here derives purely for musical reasons rather than my more often reference to programmatic names for compositions. I played opposite Jack DeJohnette somewhere in the ‘80s and there was a tune where he was hitting the first and third beats of the bar insistently, rather than the customary two and four. So along with some odd bars, this became a little rhythmic puzzle to play over which I recorded with my present group on our first release called aptly enough “Turn It Around” on the French Owl label in the early ‘90s. Guri Agmon (from Israel) captures the odd flavor of the rhythm but also the groove that is present.
Again thanks to the great arrangers who have brought new life into these pieces and of course to the band and their generosity in allowing this music to be released.
NOTES BY GUNNAR MOSSBLAD - CONDUCTOR AND LEAD ALTO SAX
To a jazz aficionado it would take only a glance at the personnel list of this big band to realize it is made up of the brightest and most creative New York jazz musicians. Everyone is not only well-versed and experienced in the traditional big band performance practices, but each and every one of them are gifted soloists and renowned jazz musicians in their own right. What is not obvious until you hear the band is that collectively, the level of musicianship is so high that the band easily breaks the boundaries of the traditional big band.
In addition to Liebman's compositions and the writer's creative arrangements, the unique sound of the DLBB is also due to how easily the group traverses the line between tonality and atonality; executes dramatic stylistic changes in the moment; and most importantly, can create collaborations of improvised music that are so well-aligned with the compositions that it is hard to tell what is or is not improvised. This, coupled with Liebman's never ending pursuit of all possible avenues of expression in his soprano sax playing, offers the listener a new approach to the big band tradition.
It is an honor to be associated with such a great group of musicians dedicated to making extraordinarily beautiful music together.
TURNAROUND:THE MUSIC OF ORNETTE COLEMAN -THE DAVE LIEBMAN GROUP - Jazz Werkstatt - Selected as Jazz Record of the Year-2010-German Jazz Journalists
"BEST TRIBUTE RECORDING 2010"-ALL ABOUT JAZZ, NYC
THE DAVE LIEBMAN GROUP-
Dave Liebman-tenor and soprano saxophones; wooden flute
Vic Juris-acoustic and electric guitars
Tony Marino-acoustic bass
Marko Marcinko-drums and percussion
All compositions by Ornette Coleman except The Sky by David Liebman (Liebstone Music) All arrangements by David Liebman except Una Muy Bonita by Vic Juris Recorded on Jan 5-6, 2009 and mixed at Schoolhouse Productions, Reading PA by Marty Mellinger Mastered Nov 12 2005 at Masterwork Recording, Philadelphia, PA by Pete Humphreys
Hear Sample Tracks
Notes by Dave Liebman:
A lot has been written about the music and legacy of Ornette Coleman, his “harmelodic” approach and overall influence. If only for his first recordings in the late 50’s and early 60’s, especially Free Jazz with the double quartets, he would’ve made musical history. On a personal level from the several times I’ve met Ornette, he impressed me as soft-spoken, a total gentleman always ready to talk about music and explain his theories (which after five minutes had me completely baffled--similar to what I have heard from others). I particularly love two of his recordings for their incredible swing and fire: New York Is Now with Elvin Jones and Jimmy Garrison and Live Atthe Golden Circle with Charles Moffett and David Izenzon-both great rhythm sections. But in general his music has not had as much an influence upon me as others from my generation. This is primarily due to the relatively minor role that harmony plays in his music, or shall I say intentional-direct harmony. For my aesthetic, choosing and refining harmony (at least on occasion) deepens the expressive power of a melody, be it an improvised line or a nursery rhyme. The development of harmony stands as one of the major contributions of Western culture to the musical world at large. Although there have been “harmonic moments” in Ornette’s music in tandem with pianists Walter Norris, Paul Bley, Joachim Kuhn and Gerri Allan, as well as all the bass players throughout the years, for the most part Ornette’s brand of “free-bop” doesn’t really place much importance on harmony per se.
Nonetheless I do admire his seemingly never ending repository of lyrical melodies, most of which do just fine with little or no direct harmony. Over the years it intrigued me to imagine what would happen if I “loaned” harmony to some of the more likely material and arranged the freer music to fit my long standing group of twenty years which features the guitar in the person of Vic Juris.
A primary factor for me when considering what I call “repertoire” projects (as opposed to original material) is that I can learn something by immersing myself in another’s person’s music and life. After choosing material from Ornette’s vast catalogue and re-thinking the original recorded concepts, I focused on his improvising and found several recurring tendencies: tonally centered material for extended periods sprinkled by short chromatic excursions into neighboring key areas; triadic and close interval line construction with occasional use of wider intervals; often use of blues inflections if not actual blues licks per se; intense swinging eighth notes interspersed with non metrical fast multi-noted flurries; a basically legato flowing approach to articulation encompassing the full range of the alto saxophone with a very strong and focused tone. Finally, there is present a feeling of controlled abandonment which consistently underlies the group interaction surrounding Ornette as a soloist.
Above all as in any great music, it is the spirit that shines brightest. In Ornette’s music there is a joyful spirit which permeates throughout and explains why people love his art as they do. His music expresses an irrepressible joie de vivre, uplifting and mournful at the same time, playful and deadly serious-a full view of the human condition. With deep respect to a true individualist and master of his art, I hope you enjoy our Ornette Coleman voyage.
Quest For Freedom-Dave Liebman and Richie Beirach with the HR Big Band arranged by Jim McNeely (Sunnyside)
HONORABLE MENTION FOR BEST RECORD OF THE YEAR-2010-ALL ABOUT JAZZ, NEW YORK CITY
Dave Liebman-soprano sax, wooden flute
Hessicher Rundfunk-HR Big Band-(Frankfurt, Germany) conducted by Jim McNeely
Hear Sample Tracks
Richie Beirach writes:
I am basically a classically trained jazz pianist and composer. My experiences playing with big bands has been brief and not always satisfying, probably the result of little exposure and like any other musical endeavor, lack of experience in that format.â€¨â€¨But my listening knowledge and love of big band music is a very different story!! I have loved, studied and lived with Count Basie, Duke, Gil Evans, Thad Jones, George Russell, Bob Brookmeyer, Vince Mendoza, Maria Schneider and now Big Jim McNeely. â€¨ The main reasons why this recording was such a great experience for me is that Mac happens to be one of the most brilliant, experienced and creative arrangers/ pianists and composers we have. His great arrangements of mine and Lieb’s music fit like a glove…like an Armani suit!â€¨â€¨Only someone who has so much experience dealing with creative improvisers would be flexible enough to change arrangements right on the spot in the studio in order to better integrate our improvisations within the general fabric of the pieces. Courage and confidence are essential here. Thanks Big Jim.
Dave Liebman writes:
It doesn’t get much better than to have one your longest musical relationships immortalized in such a dramatic setting as the big band. From my past experiences with Jim which include his classic arrangement of “Sing, Sing, Sing” written for me in the ‘90s (earning a Grammy nomination), I knew that this would be an incredible project and am thrilled that Sunnyside is releasing it.
Jim is one of the foremost arrangers/composers in jazz, but I know him first as a great pianist who has appeared on several of my recordings in the past and with whom I have had wonderful playing experiences. It takes someone of this caliber to understand the implications of the particular kind of harmony that Richie and I have been exploring for years. The writing feels like Jim was actually playing with us-accompanying me, soloing and being completely inside the music.
“Pendulum” is pretty much the “theme song” for the group Quest which is the band Richie and I have been playing with on and off for decades (Billy Hart on drums and Ron McClure on bass.) We have recorded this tune several times and to hear it with the big band in back of us was quite a thrill. Tony Lakatos takes a great solo, right into the chromatic language of the tune. I wrote “Jung” for the Swiss psychoanalyst and Jim originally arranged this as a commission for the Zagreb Big Band a few years ago. “Vendetta” is one of my personal favorite compositions that Jim really gets a hold of texturally using the woodwinds to great advantage. “WTC” (World Trade Center) arranged by Heiner Schmitz, also recorded by Quest (Redemption-Hatology) captures the horror of 9/11. “Port Ligat” was one of the tunes I recorded with Jim in the ‘90s on a sextet CD (Timeline-Owl Records). It was written for a sojourn near Barcelona in the 70s, right next to Salvador Dali’s house, where Richie and I spent some time. I wrote “Enfin” to celebrate the election of Barack Obama, meaning FINALLY, an Afro –American President!! Jim’s “The Sky’s The Limit” is just that—a 12 tone voyage into fantastic sonic and rhythmic realms.
Richie and I thank the HR Band for their incredible musicianship and cooperation; to Olaf and his staff who helped us throughout the week; to Axel, the engineer, who painstakingly edited and mixed the music.
Most of all, our deep appreciation to Jim McNeely for his painstaking dedication to getting the music right.
Jim McNeely writes:
The quest for freedom is a thread coursing throughout human history. It has taken shape (indeed, still takes shape) in many forms: freedom from tyrannical rule, freedom from slavery, freedom from social and religious oppression, freedom from censorship. On another level, people continue to struggle to free themselves from personal demons—addiction, emotional paralysis, and immobilizing fear. So it is no surprise that art should reflect, express, and inspire humanity’s continuing quests for freedom. It is one of the most important roles of an artist in modern society.
Yet freedom must be balanced with structure. Without that, freedom can dissolve into chaos and anarchy. Jazz—the music developed by descendants of African-American slaves—represents that perfect marriage of freedom and structure. Every jazz performance contains elements determined beforehand—composed—and elements freely improvised in the moment. David Liebman and Richie Beirach are masters of both ends of the equation, able to develop elegant structures in which to pursue their continuing quests for freedom.
I’ve known David for 30 years. Even before I met him, I was inspired by his music, going back to his time with Miles Davis and Elvin Jones, and then his own groups like Lookout Farm and Open Sky. Richie has been his musical partner for most of that time. Together they have developed “The Code”—the intensely chromatic harmonic and melodic language that forms the basis for their performances. Their language has been well documented over many years of duo recordings, but not in a large ensemble setting. In writing the arrangements for this recording I considered the duo to be the prime soloist. To be sure, each individual has his own solo role to play. But the chemistry between the two creates an energy greater than the sum of its parts. My job was to use the considerable abilities of the Frankfurt Radio Big Band to create structures within which both players, individually and together, would be free to search and explore. I also wanted to shape each arrangement so that it would build organically, using their solos and duo as key structural elements. Another consideration (for you budding arrangers out there) was that the harmonic language of the music is quite chromatic and, at times, dense. I had to be careful not to score it too heavily, especially in the slower pieces, or the clarity would be lost. Transparency is the key. Now, to the individual pieces:
Pendulum is one of Richie’s tunes, based on three different pedal points. After a terrific opening solo by Tony Lakatos, Richie and David each have a solo turn. Then they join forces, improvising freely in a series of exchanges with the whole band.
I wrote this arrangement of David’s tribute to Carl Jung a couple of years ago, for a band in Zagreb featuring David as the soloist. I am amazed by his ability to play so freely over chord changes that would baffle most players. As is the case with all great artists, there is a lot of theory and structure in David’s playing. Yet we are not made aware of those elements; we hear the shapes, the sound, the passion; the music.
I arranged Vendetta for a scaled-down version of the big band, with conical-bore brass and five woodwinds. It starts with Richie laying out the essence of the song in a beautiful solo introduction. David then joins him with the melody. Even in playing a composed song together, the two demonstrate their near-telepathic ability to anticipate and echo each other. The ensemble states the theme again, and David solos briefly over the coda.
W.T.C. was arranged for David by Heiner Schmitz. It starts peacefully, with David’s wood flute and Richie’s playing inside the piano, evoking the tranquility as the city awoke the morning of Sept. 11, 2001 (I remember it as a stunningly beautiful late summer morning without a cloud in the sky, until…). The rest of the piece reflects the horrific events of that day, and the reactions of people in New York and around the world.
I had played Port Ligat on Dave’s sextet recording, Time Lines (Owl Records). Now it was an enjoyable challenge to approach the tune from the perspective of an arranger. The melody chorus evokes Spain, Catalonia, the seacoast, and the peaceful nature of the surroundings. Once it gets into Richie’s freely-associative solo, the atmosphere becomes darker. Bucket-muted brass back him up, leading into a freely improvised duo with David. The band enters again, pushing and prodding the two to the climax of the solo section.
Enfin begins with a lyrical, thoughtful solo from David. Richie introduces the beginning of the theme, and the two play it together. After the ensemble accompanies them on the theme, the space is cleared for a solo from Richie. As David joins him the band develops the tune’s changes; the chords change at an increasingly faster rate. Finally, David re-states the theme over muted brass and woodwinds.
In planning this project, David suggested that I write an original piece for him and Richie. The result is The Sky’s the Limit. A twelve-tone row forms the basis for the melody and harmony. I occasionally use serial technique as a way to free myself from my own harmonic and melodic clichés. This piece gives both David and Richie the opportunity to solo and play together. In composing for strong players it is exciting to imagine how they will sound when they finally play the music. In this case, they devour the material just like I knew they would!
This project was extremely satisfying. It gave me the opportunity to construct arrangements around these two great musicians who are also long-time friends. This project also represents another big step in the relationship between the Frankfurt Radio Big Band and myself. I am so pleased to be their Artist-in-Residence as they take their place in the ranks of the world’s great jazz orchestras. Most of the selections were recorded in a live broadcast from the HR Broadcast Hall. We had a great audience that night, and their energy and response definitely contributed to the charged atmosphere around the music. We now offer this music to you, as we all continue our quest for freedom.
Quest - Redial: Live In Hamburg-Out Note Records
RE-DIAL CHOSEN AS CHOC OF THE YEAR IN JAZZ MAGAZINE (FRANCE)
Dave Liebman - Tenor and Soprano Saxophones, wooden flute Ritchie Beirach - Piano Billy Hart - Drums Ron McClure - Bass
Hear Sample Tracks
"Piper At The Gates Of Dawn"
By Michael Cuscuna
It is a chronic cliché among people who observe and write about art of any kind to describe an artist as ahead of his or her time. Utter bullshit. An artist, no matter how innovative or ground-breaking, is OF his time. In the ‘60s when Coltrane was blazing trails faster than a forest fire in a California draught and Miles Davis’s quintet was stretching the rules and potential of hard bop to its very limits, they were creating the music of their time. It couldn’t have happened without them and it couldn’t have happened at any other point in time.
I make this point because I remember the first time I saw Quest in the mid ‘80s. It was an amazing musical experience, but what struck me most is that these four master musicians shared a broad-ranged common music language that defined a generation. Those of us born in the ‘40s tended to have eclectic musical experiences, tastes and influences. We were weaned on Ray Charles and Blue Note, came of age during the reigns of the various Charles Mingus groups, the John Coltrane Quartet with McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones and the Miles Davis quintet with Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams. We witnessed earth-shattering shooting stars like Jimi Hendrix and the rise of free jazz on one hand and fusion on the other and took what we liked from each. Contemporary classical music and Indian music were also eye-opening sources of study and fascination.
In the ‘70s, there was no need to evolve in a linear fashion from one style or genre to another. Everything could happen simultaneously and did! It is that era and that generation which Quest epitomizes. Liebman wrote in 2004, “To a large degree, Quest summarizes the musical relationship between Richie [Beirach] and myself. The artistic success of the group was a result of the compatible skills, common history and experiences of the four of us since we had all been influenced by the same music at roughly the same time in our individual development.”
The first incarnation of Quest appeared in 1981 with Liebman, Beirach, George Mraz and Al Foster. But Al was pressed back into service with Miles Davis’ re-entry on the scene and George Mraz became constantly in demand with Tommy Flanagan, Roland Hanna and others. By 1983/’84, Quest had solidified as Liebman, Beirach, Ron McClure and Billy Hart. Unlike Lookout Farm, Liebman’s ‘70s group with Beirach, the Coltrane and Miles ‘60s groups were clearly the foundation and inspiration for Quest. But the quartet’s vocabulary and horizons grew every time it came together to make music
The collective history of the band members includes making meaningful music with Elvin Jones, Ten Wheel Drive, Miles Davis, Stan Getz, Chet Baker, Wynton Kelly, Charles Lloyd, Keith Jarrett, the Fourth Way, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Wes Montgomery, Herbie Hancock and McCoy Tyner to name a few. The musical world they inhabit was and is vast and ever expanding.
The band began recording in the mid ‘80s and lasted until 1991 when Liebman and Beirach parted ways. It became the stuff of legends with fans and other musicians recounting this or that amazing performance by this under-appreciated group.
Fast forward fourteen years-Lieb and Richie find themselves performing as a duo at a mutual friend’s 50th birthday party. That night triggered the 2005 reunion of Quest. Remarkably, they picked up where they’d left off in 1991 with their empathy, common language and common goals intact.
This live Hamburg performance for NDR radio comes a little more than two years into the band’s second life. Their interplay, their energy and their individual and collective contributions on stage make every performance a revelation. And this concert is no exception. If you haven’t heard the reunited Quest, you are in for some surprises.
Ron McClure’s “Let Freedom Ring” is a marvelous, snaky line against a pulse rhythm. It inspires Liebman and Beirach to use space magnificently. The improvisational section is essentially a duet by them with Richie answering Lieb’s quirky soprano statements and eventually stoking him with some outrageous voicings. McClure explains: “This piece first appeared on my 1999 album Double Triangle. The line we recorded with Quest is only the opening line. There was an entire arrangement for the sextet recording on Naxos Jazz, which we didn't get into.” Billy Hart was on the original version as well.
Lieb composed “Standoff” as a lament on the situation in Israel (one step forward, two steps back). It is a beautiful, stately ballad. Richie’s solo piano introduction is a stunning two-minute meditation on the composition. Lieb’s soprano carries a tone of poignancy and dignity throughout his solo. This composition dates back to 2001 when it was recorded on the album Lunar by the Marc Copland-David Liebman Quartet.
Lieb opens “Re-Dial” unaccompanied. When the rhythm section kicks in, Richie embarks on an ever building solo that begins where McCoy Tyner lives and gradually grows freer. Billy Hart’s highly musical drum solo is a demonstration of the importance of the discreet tuning of a drum set. Lieb joins him for a duet in the tradition of Trane and Elvin that raises the intensity. The last section is an all out free-form quartet improvisation. This is a new approach for the group, inspired by swirling improvisations reminiscent of Coltrane’s last period. Lieb calls it “a loose chromatic burn – our “current” direction.”
Richie Beirach’s “Continuum” is an exquisite piece introduced by the composer. Lieb has called Richie “Mr. 20th Century Chopin” and that’s a fair assessment. Who else can be divinely lyrical one minute and swing and phrase like Bud Powell the next? Richie is an old soul with a youthful mind.
“Pendulum” is Quest’s “flag-waving pedal point tune,” as Lieb describes it. Lieb finally picks up the tenor sax and his other voice (the one that those of us who of a similar age are most used to) emerges. The band used to open with this tune and it’s as close to a theme song as they’ll ever have. It is a perfect vehicle to show off the way these four men listen to and play off each other.
Artists as diverse as Chris Swansen, Pink Floyd and Van Morrison have used “Piper At The Gates Of Dawn” as a title. Lieb never heard any of their versions but liked the image that it created in his mind and used it to title this beautiful piece. “This is the kind of harmony and rubato that I like to do.” And it certainly is the kind of piece that no one who came of age before the ‘60s would be comfortable performing. Everyone, especially Richie and Lieb, is outstanding on this.
John Coltrane’s “Brazilia” starts with a drum and wooden flute duet that belies the identity of the composition. Then Lieb picks up the tenor and the band moves into Coltrane orbit, stating the theme with changes provided by Dave. This is a tune that Coltrane first recorded in early 1965 at a point when his amazing quartet was at the beginning of its deconstruction. Interestingly, though the members of Quest were profoundly shaped by the classic Coltrane quartet in its prime, this performance immediately sails into the realm of the Coltrane quintet of 1966-’67 – freer, fragmented and intense in a different way. Quest captures the tumult and frustration of that era.
The lyrical, stately “Hermitage” comes from the pen and piano of Richie Beirach. This is a beautiful reading. The piece is named after the club in the late Thomas Stowsand’s hometown of Schwaz, Austria. Stowsand, a co-founder of ECM Records and one of the best and most beloved booking agents in Europe would bring musicians there during a tour where they would usually end up playing at the Hermitage before returning to the road.
This is only the second album by the reunited Quest (they recorded Redemption for Hatology in 2005). But hopefully there will be more. Thankfully the members intend to set aside time every year or two to get together to tour and record. What can you say about a band that started out great and keeps getting better?
The new millennium seems to be a time when groups are reuniting, sometimes to even greater acclaim than they achieved the first time around. It's also a time when aging jazz musicians are lighting a fire under their own careers, ramping up their output and broadening their reach. Saxophonist Dave Liebman's activity in the past year has been almost beyond belief, closing in on a dozen as a leader and co-leader, as well as a couple of important reissues. One significant re-release is Searching for the Next Sound of Be-Bop (Storyville, 2010), bringing three important albums back into print, including the first two discs by Quest--once it arrived at a consistent lineup with its second release, Quest II (Storyville, 1986)--and Double Edge (Storyville, 1985), a tremendous duo record from Liebman and Quest-mate/pianist Richie Beirach, which further solidifies the language and mitochondrial connection these two have shared, dating back to the 1970s and other groups, including Lookout Farm and Pendulum.
The David Liebman Trio - Lieb Plays The Blues A La Trane (Daybreak)
1 - All Blues (Miles Davis)-9:20
2 - Up Against The Wall (John Coltrane) 8:11
3 - Mr. P.C. (John Coltrane) 11:08
4 - Village Blues (John Coltrane) 15:33
5 - Take The Coltrane (John Coltrane) 8:58
Hear Sample Tracks
"Take The Coltrane"
The trio was on tour playing Kurt Weill and Alec Wilder compositions from our two releases on Daybreak. Arriving at this small club in Belgium and feeling a bit under the weather, I felt that we should play something different. As I try to do on these occasions, I like to have at least the thread of a story line for a night’s repertoire. Why not play some blues played or associated with John Coltrane? Thanks to Kris Roevens and some additional sound reinforcement from Marius, to our surprise we came out with a CD’s worth of music without planning it at all.
For many years till the late ‘80s, with a few exceptions I purposely refrained from recording Coltrane tunes for the obvious reason that I needed and wanted to escape his titanic ( and positive) influence on my life and music. It is well known among those who have heard me speak in classes or interviews that seeing Trane live in the ‘60s was my epiphany. By the late ‘80s I felt ready to tackle it somewhat of my own terms, which I did on “Homage To Coltrane” (Owl Records) in 1987 and have recorded several Trane compositions since then, especially from the late period. In the case of this CD, the vibe was to just play the music for an evening and have fun. With such a strong bass-drum team as Marius and Eric are, I knew that whatever transpired it would certainly swing…so no arrangements, just the heads and blow. There is nothing new contained herein but it does reflect the absorption of years of study of Trane’s music and a kind of homage to one particular aspect of his massive style.
Coltrane had a different approach to playing the blues than others from his generation as well as from his usual approach to chord change playing. In a way Trane was like an old blues cat who couldn’t give up the strong pull of the basic I-IV-V progression. This is notable in light of so many intricate altered blues statements that existed like Bird’s “Blues for Alice” or even “All Blues” which were compositional variations of the format. And there is of course the incessant cry of the blues scale itself to deal with. Just imagining how many variations exist on that basic sound is impressive.
For the beboppers, the blues was an old friend who had to be visited, almost as an obligation. There is so much in the blues that transfers to the standard song repertoire: the tonic, sub dominant, dominant relationships of the harmony; the call and response aspect of the form; the lyrical (vocal) intimations of the melodies; the universal appeal of the blues. When Trane played the blues you really GOT IT. He wrote a lot of blues in different keys, sometimes with different substitute harmonies but always true to the integrity of the blues sound. One of his most influential solos, the classic live track from the Village Vanguard of “Chasin’ the Trane” is a great example of his commitment to the basic I-IV-V blues model as is “Pursuance” in a completely different way a few years later. Of course there is the landmark recording “Coltrane Plays The Blues,” a primer for anyone interested in his music.
To me when I hear the blues played well, it is an affirmation of the human spirit…neither sad nor happy…just a slice of life on this planet that all humanity feels and lives through beyond time, place, culture and ethnicity. In broad terms people have much more in common than not-the life/death, young/old, love/loss cycles that we all pass through…the general “yin/yangness” of it all. The blues is a universal declaration of what it is to be alive in the moment.
Once again my thanks to Marius and Eric for their ongoing musical support, to Fred Dubiez for his unwavering commitment to the music and to Kris Roevens for capturing that night on tape.
It’s a sax master class, as usual. THE GUARDIAN (UK)
…full of passion, invention and sheer joy… IRISHTIMES (IR)
…en dat is bijzonder goed uitgepakt. JAZZ (NL)
Diese Live-Einspielung vom April 2008 (…) schafft tatsächlich eine unglaubliche Atmosphäre… Für Trio-Fans eine absolute Bereicherung. JAZZPODIUM (D)
…a worthy tribute to Coltrane and a more than welcome addition to Liebman’s extensive discography. Few can conjure the spirit of the blues like Liebman (…) Village Blues is the most breathtaking sweep of emotions that might be heard on soprano saxophone for some time to come. ALL ABOUT JAZZ(USA)
…five lengthy tracks that shine from beginning to end. BOSTON POST GAZETTE (USA)
…Lieb Plays the Blues à la Trane is a smouldering piece of work. JAZZ, BLUES & THE TRUTH (C)
…an Adrenalizing, Unexpected trio album. …a must-own for Liebman fans… LUCID CULTURE (USA)
I give this my HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating (…) my “PICK” for the best live jazz recording of 2011. Zzjaj Productions (USA) …impressive examples of passion tempered by deliberate control. JAZZIZ (USA)
“Lieb Plays the Blues à la Trane” is destined to become a classic… THE NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD (USA)
ALL MUSIC GUIDE By Ken Dryden
Jazz is often at its best when musicians come to a live performance without preplanning a set, which is the case when David Liebman recorded this trio set at a Belgium club called De Singer in 2008. With the strong support of bassist Marius Beets and drummer Eric Ineke, Liebman tackles five blues either written or recorded by John Coltrane, starting with a breezy, playful version of Miles Davis' "All Blues" that swings like mad, with the soprano saxophonist making great use of space and taking the piece far beyond its usual horizon.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ By Raul DeGama Rose
There are few artists who can channel the spiritual fervent of John Coltrane better than Dave Liebman. Liebman was so deeply moved by Trane, that it took him two decades to renew a commitment to revisiting the legendary saxophonist's work. Liebman was so completely under Trane's spell that, by his own admission, it was like having a musical epiphany. Liebman has developed a voice so singular and unique that his broad tone on tenor saxophone and his plaintive, almost crushing wail on soprano mark him with one of the most distinctive styles of horn-playing in all of modern music. Liebman is, of course, rooted in modal music, but his approach is not quite as raw as Coltrane's. His honks and bleats are shorter; his lines more elastic (especially on the soprano), and he breathes the Lydian modes more exquisitely in the ebb-and-flow of his playing.
THE GUARDIAN (LONDON) By John Fordham
David Liebman is one of the most creative jazz saxophonists on the planet – but he adds to that an unmistakably single-minded devotion to fresh music-making that makes each new album feel like an informal meeting with an inspired friend. Liebman didn't plan this Coltrane-dedicated trio exploration of the blues – he just turned up on tour at Belgium's De Singer club with bassist Marius Beets and drummer Eric Ineke and felt like examining Coltrane's harmonically revolutionary approach to the idiom. Three pieces here are therefore Coltrane blues originals, alongside a feverishly whirling visit to Miles Davis's All Blues and a finale of Duke Ellington's Take the Coltrane. In between is the deliciously lazy swinger Up Against the Wall that turns into a slamming improvisation, a skimming Mr PC featuring the powerful Eric Ineke, and a quietly whimsical and eventually exultant Village Blues. It's a sax master-class, as usual.
THE IRISH TIMES by Ray Comiskey
Even the astonishingly consistent Liebman must have been surprised at how this blowing session, made on tour with bassist Marius Beets and drummer Eric Ineke in 2008, took off. It’s full of the passion, invention and sheer joy in playing that the great saxophonist can summon in the right company. The common thread of this live date is blues written by or associated with Coltrane, an acknowledged seminal influence on Liebman.
But this is no “tribute” album – and in any case there is more to Liebman (and Coltrane) than the blues. What distinguishes the best performances here ( All Blues, Mr PC, Take the Coltrane and, especially, Village Blues ) is Liebman’s instinctively creative response to the tug of the underlying, age-old blues structures, and the tension between them and the free-ranging, highly original soprano and tenor improvisations they nourish.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ by Bruce Lindsey
One day in April, 2008, saxophonist Dave Liebman, on tour in Belgium, was feeling a little under the weather. He decided to replace his trio's planned set list for the evening with a set of blues tunes associated with John Coltrane. Kris Roevens recorded the set, at De Singer in Rijkevorsel, and two years later it has become Lieb Plays The Blues À La Trane--a tribute to the great saxophonist, but also a tribute to the creativity that can arise from spontaneous decisions.
A new release from Liebman is hardly an unusual event--he must be one of the most prolific of jazz musicians--but it is always awelcome one. Liebman has clearly been inspired by Coltrane--describing seeing him in the '60s as “my epiphany”--and there are plenty of tunes associated with the jazz legend in Liebman's back catalogue. The rhythm section here--bassist Marius Beets and drummer Eric Ineke--are both experienced Liebman sidemen, appearing on Lieb Plays Wilder (Daybreak, 2005) and Lieb Plays Weill(Daybreak, 2009).
BOSTON POST GAZETTE by Bob Morello
Saxophonist David Liebman succumbs to the inspirations of John Coltrane in his music. Teaming up with Marius Beets on bass and Eric Ineke on drums, Liebman created a night’s repertoire of Coltrane’s blues, and ended up with a CD’s worth of music. Liebman arranged five lengthy tracks that shine from beginning to end. Opening with just under ten minutes worth of Miles Davis’ “All Blues,” climbing aboard the Coltrane train with the legend’s efforts that include, “Up Against the Wall,” the fast pace of “Mr. P.C.” and over fifteen minutes worth of “Village Blues.” The fitting tribute to Trane “Take the Coltrane” was penned by Duke Ellington and played brilliantly by the trio The blues of Trane —Liebman-ized!
This album – titled The Dave Liebman Trio Plays the Blues a la Trane – was in the can for awhile before Liebman might have said to himself, “Hey, why not release this?” And why not? He’s the rare artist who could probably get away with releasing pretty much everything he plays – which he may realize, because he’s pretty much been doing that lately. This set has the saxophone giant playing in a trio situation at a live date in Belgium in the spring of 2008 with Marius Beets on bass and Eric Ineke on drums, an interestingly stripped-down configuration in light of Liebman’s recent, noteworthy big band work. The official story is that Liebman decided to go completely off program for this one and jam out on a series of blues by John Coltrane, or associated with him. It’s both fresh – especially for the rhythm section – and retro at the same time.
AUDIOPHILE AUDITION (web based)
David Liebman is a true link to seminal jazz of the late fifties and early sixties. As a twelve-year- old student of the saxophone, he was drawn to the abstract structures of jazz. A native New Yorker, he frequented historic Greenwich Village clubs, including the Village Vanguard, Half Note and Birdland. It was there he witnessed, in awe, the genius of John Coltrane. After an initial foray into fusion, he was hired by the legendary Coltrane drummer, Elvin Jones. A four year tenure with Miles Davis augmented the learning curve. Following a world tour with Chic Corea in 1977, he formed the David Liebman Quartet, which included John Scofield. This ensemble recorded seven albums, and established the saxophonist as a prominent exponent of idiomatic jazz.
RE-RELEASE OF QUEST (mid 1980s):THE NEW SOUND OF BEBOP-STORYVILLE RECORDS
"BEST RELEASES 2010"-ALL ABOUT JAZZ
This two CD set combines three recordings that were made in the mid-1980s by the group:
QUEST II and MIDPOINT featured the group with Dave Liebman(soprano sax); Richie Beirach(piano); Billy Hart(drums); ROn McClure(bass). Also included is the duo set of standards DOUBLE EDGE with Beirach and Liebman. The music here captures the group both live and in the studio with a repertoire encompassing originals and standards. QUEST was considered THE New York band of the '80s, a very interactive rhythm section lead by Liebman's intense soprano style with an emphasis on chromatic harmony generated by Beirach. Scott Yanow's accompanying liner notes are extensive.
"Since the time of these recrodinfs, Liebman, McClure and Beirach have all participated in a countless number of perfromances, recordings and memorable moments. Happily, all are quite active as of this writing continuing to add to the legacy of jazz and improvised music. But even after the passing of more than two decades, their work with Quest remains among the highpoints of their careers." Scott Yanow
Twenty five years ago, one of the era’s most arresting groups was Quest. Growing out of the partnership between Liebman and pianist Richie Beirach, Quest played a brand of Coltrane-inspired jazz that was ethereal one moment, funky the next. Searching for the New Sound of Be-Bop is a two-disc compilation that includes two Quest albums, Quest II from 1986 and Midpoint, a live recording from 1987, along with Double Edge, a duo session of standards Liebman and Beirach made in 1985.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ by JOHN KELMAN
A few minutes of this outstanding and welcome reissue are all that's needed to hear that the members of Quest had not only found the sound they were searching for, but were continuing to fight the good fight of pushing it ever-forward...something that they all continue doing to this day, both inside and outside the purview of this fine and now clearly groundbreaking quartet.
Le Jazz Hot (Planet Arts Network)
The New York Repertory Jazz Orchestra conducted by Bill Warfield featuring David Liebman and Vic Juris
1. Le Petite Fleur (1) by Sidney Bechet
2. Le Petite Fleur (2) by S.Bechet
3. Le Creation Du Monde by Darius Milhaud arranged by Bill Warfield
4. Creataloop by Bill Warfield
5. Blues To Bechet by John Coltrane
6. Le Petite Fleur (3) by S.Bechet
7. Variations On A Theme By Frank Poulenc arranged by Bill Warfield
8. Pablo's Story by David Liebman
9. Petite Fleur (4) by S.Bechet
Hear Sample Tracks
"Petite Fleur" by S. Bechet
Why this treatise on an instrument when I should be talking about Bill Warfield's latest? Because for this, Warfield's self-proclaimed magnum opus, he has chosen one of jazz's most important proponents on that instrument, Dave Liebman, to express it. Liebman said that for him it was Bechet who gave the sporano sax it's own voice. "He played it like it was supposed to be played, whatever that is." Lieb said. "It's a difficult instrument. [In the wrong hands it can sound like an oboe.] Yet it became Bechet's only instrument eventually giving impetus to Wayne Shorter and myself." Both Lieb and Shorter explore new avenues of expression. On LE JAZZ HOT Liebman and Warfield give theme and variations fresh insight.
At first hearing, "Petit Fleus" is a nice, even a romantic ballad. It's popularity was borne out when it became a charted hit in the fifties by European Acker Bild. Later Pete Fountain covered it on clarinet. While quite a beautiful and eminently hummable - English lyrics have been written- it's not a difficult piece, excepting the composer's bravura attack. On LE JAZZ HOT "Petit Fleur" is played no fewer than four times. The entire CD is a conceptual collection not unlike what Warfield's personal hero Miles Davis did with Gil Evans. There's a connection there as well; Lieb played in Miles' avant electric bands. Warfield's penchant for Le Six- Milhaud, Poulenc, Tailleferre, Honegger, Auric and Durey- adds a French connection to LE JAZZ HOT.
The title is also French; "Le Jazz Hot" is what they called our music when it entered Gallic shores during WWI. "Blues to Bechet" offers an example of what that new music may have sounded like, updated with Vic Juris' guitar adding spunk. "The idea of the suite is to create a tone poem that starts at the end of WWI," Warfield said. "Lieb's solo on the [opening] 'Petit Fleur' is the mourning of the end of the destruction," he continued. "The second version is a rebirth which starts with the brass chorale into the beginning of the twenties in Paris." Warfield gives a reverential bow to Darius Milhaud with his arrangement of the composer's "Le Creation du Monde" and later to Francis Poulenc with "Variation on a Theme by Frank Poulenc." [A play on Duke Ellington's paian to Henry V in his Shakespearean Suite, "Such Sweet Thunder." The Duke dubbed him "Hank Cinq."] Liebman is on tenor here. "Creataloop" is a series of variations.
What would twenties Paris be without Pablo Picasso? "Pablo's Story" is Liebman's dedication to the master impressionist and father of the abstract. The arrangement, or as Bill more aptly put it, "envisioned" piece, concludes the tone poem. He also said that the final version of "Fleur" is an ominous preview of what's to come in WWII. Warfield sees the piece as something of a snapshot of European history from 1920 to 1938. "This is a special project that's near and dear to my heart," he said. "I think it's the best work I've done." From this side of the speakers that's not idle braggadocio.
- Arnold Jay Smith. Prof. Jazz History New Jersey City University.
This is an unusual venture featuring the great saxophonist David Liebman with a full-blown orchestra under trumpeter Bill Warfield's direction. The band mostly operates in a Gil Evans Sketches of Spain-era mode, on four different examinations of New Orleans soprano-sax pioneer Sidney Bechet's theme Petit Fleur; there are also jazz spins on Darius Milhaud and Francis Poulenc – references to Bechet's adopted France. Liebman delivers the opening account of the principal theme, but mingles it with probing multiphonics. The band whoops and slews in a George Russell-like manner on the rocking Creataloop, sidles stealthily on John Coltrane's Blue for Bechet, simmers romantically on a brass-led version of Petit Fleur, and swings hard on its Poulenc variations, with Liebman at his most rugged and forceful on tenor sax.
Lieb Plays Weill (Daybreak Records-Netherlands)
The David Liebman Trio with Marius Beets and Eric Ineke and special guest Jesse van Ruller
1. Mac The Knife (Mackie Messer)
2. This Time Next Year
3. Speak Low
4. What Good Would The Moon Be
5. Here I’ll Stay
7. Let There Be Life, Love and Laughter
8. You’re Far Too Near Me
9. Apple Jack
10. My Ship
11. This Is New
12. September Song
Hear Sample Tracks
"Mack The Knife"
Kurt Weill could be considered one of the first great eclectic musicians of the 20th century. He did it all-from twelve tone Schoenbergian music to Broadway; from “Mac the Knife” to operas; from Brecht to Lotte Lenya; he was as prolific and contemporary as anyone. This is even more remarkable if you take into account the dramatic period of history and upheavals he experienced as a German and then an expatriate in the U.S. through the first half of the 20th century.
As jazz musicians we all have played “Speak Low” countless times and on rarer occasions “September Song” and “This Is New” (used to play that with Pete LaRoca and Chick Corea). “My Ship” was my flute ballad feature when I was with Elvin Jones in the early ‘70s and who can forget what Gil and Miles did with that tune on “Miles Ahead.” I have done a lot of repertoire over the years, from Porter to Monk to Puccini, etc.; Weill has been on my list for decades.
Following up our Alec Wilder tribute in concept (Lieb Plays Wilder – Daybreak DBCHR75214), I reharmonized and reorganized the music as I saw fit, of course retaining the melodies and important harmonic highlights. In Weill’s case in fact, the harmony was so rich and full of surprises, it was like working with a brother in arms! “Liebeslied” which I have recorded before is one of my all time favorite tunes and in my research I found some gems I did not know (“This Time Next Year” for example).
Needless to say Eric and Marius love to swing out and as well are completely adaptable to any of the many stylistic turns I like to take. They know the roots and are great interpreters of any written page. A surprise was Jesse van Ruller, a first place award winner in the Thelonious Monk Competition, who played so wonderfully and with whom I hope to work in the future.
Thanks to Fred for letting this happen and Marius for a really excellent job on the sound. And to Eric -my soul brother- (ELVIS LIVES!!).
And most of all, to Kurt Weill who left the world so much great music and art.
Dave Liebman September 17, 2008 Stroudsburg, PA USA
Liebman is one of the great contemporary sax improvisers, and a rarity in being an American jazz musician from the Miles Davis stable who can embrace pretty much all improv idioms. But lovers of Kurt Weill's classics might blanch at the thought of such a radical reinterpreter being let loose on such sanctified material. The later stages of Mac the Knife do find the unquenchable Liebman drifting further into a world of grunting double-time bursts and upper-end warbles, but the steady click of Eric Ineke's cymbals restrain him, and the saxophonist has rarely sounded more Sonny Rollins-like. Contrastingly, his limpid soprano sax lines curl delicately around Jesse van Ruller's decisive lines on groovers like This Time Next Year and Here I'll Stay. Speak Low is unleashed as a hard-edged, tenor-led swinger full of typical Liebman insinuations, the resourceful leader plays janglingly free-floating piano on Liebeslied and My Ship, and the unaccompanied September Song is a short exercise in seductive solo tenor-sax poetry. Liebman's records aren't usually for the casual listener, but this one might help a lot of the unconverted to get the idea.
From Jazzwise Magazine
One of the privileged few saxmen to have toured with both Miles Davis and Elvin Jones, Liebman is an imaginative veteran with a technique that comes out of decades of word and keen ear for the “outside” phrase that makes the most hackneyed standard sound fresh. Recorded in Holland, this album of Kurt Weill standards teams him with a brilliant guitarist, Jesse Van Rulle. Marius Beets, who sound engineered the session, and the propulsive Ineke complete a classy all Dutch rhythm section. Van Ruller gells with Liebman remarkably well. His antique Levin semi-acoustic enhances Liebman’s soprano saxophone on “This Time Next Year,” recast as a mid tempo bossa and skates smartly through “This Is New.” Weill’s most used standard, ”Speak Low” is also taken briskly with Liebman back on tenor and a quote from “Milestones” to bookend the arrangement. The leader’s piano version of “My Ship” and “Liebeslied,” the latter a free duet with Ineke’s brushes are a bit of a curiosity but in general fans should enjoy his trawl through the Weill songbook. Whether well known (“This Is New,” “September Song”) or less (“Apple Jack,” Here I’ll Stay”), every Weill theme has a strong melodic logic an artist like Liebman needs.
From The Yorkshire Post-England
The masterful saxophonist David Liebman has produced some fine records in recent years, but this one probably tops them all. It's a stimulating run through the music of Kurt Weill, one of the greatest of popular song composers. Liebman moves between tenor, soprano and flute for expansive readings of the likes of Mack the Knife and Speak Low. He's mostly accompanied by bassist Marius Beets and drummer Eric Ineke, which gives him plenty of harmonic space, though guitarist Jesse Van Ruller also appears. Liebman is on peak form.
Dave Liebman Group Live at MCG (Manchester Crafts Guild Records)
Dave Liebman Group (recorded 1995)
Dave Liebman – soprano Saxophone, wooden flute Phil Markowitz – piano, keyboards Vic Juris – guitar Tony Marino – electric and acoustic Bass Jamey Haddad-drums, hadgini drum
1. Maiden Voyage 2. Cut 3. All Blues 4. Mine Is Yours 5. Beyond The Line 6. New Age
Hear Sample Tracks
"Beyond The Line"
The group on this recording began to play together in 1991. After having played during the 80’s with Quest - a completely acoustic, hard core contemporary jazz group that used very little written music (featuring my long time comrade Richie Beirach on piano), I wanted to have a more arranged atmosphere with an emphasis on color and rhythm. I never thought of it as fusion music; just good tunes with rich harmonies, using the power and colors that synthesizers and electric guitar could give you. Having a musician and composer with the skills and artistry of Phil Markowitz in the keyboard chair meant anything was possible, both acoustically and coloristically. Jamey brought me into a world where rhythms were not jazz, nor world, nor anything categorical - just open and interesting. In this version of the Dave Liebman Group, Vic was the second horn, shading and shadowing me as well as soloing. (The group became a quartet with only guitar a few years after this recording and eventually Marko Marcinko replaced Jamey.) Tony as always does the job no matter what style or instrumental context. We recorded several CDs with this configuration of my group, but this one definitely captures the electric and live aspect of what I was doing in the first half of the 1990’s. The tunes speak for themselves, but I think that “Mine Is Yours” is one of the greatest compositions I have heard, operatic in scope. Herbie Hancock’s classic “Maiden Voyage” was the first tune that I know of which stayed inside suspended harmony for its entire structure as well as incorporating a hip ostinato rhythm, both of which were points of departure for my adaptation. The same can be said for “All Blues” with a line in eleven and some different harmonic colors. “Beyond the Line” and “New Age” are two tunes with a preponderance of major chords, a class of harmony that I don’t use in my writing often. And “Cut” is one of the most rocking tunes in ¾ you are ever likely to hear!! I am grateful that Marty Ashby and Manchester Craftsmen's Guild were able to capture this documentation of an important stage of my musical journey.
David Liebman Group | MCG Jazz (2009) By John Kelman Managing Editor :
It may not possess the same visibility as other longstanding groups like the Dave Holland Quintet or Oregon, and saxophonist Dave Liebman's Group hasn't completely avoided flux. Marko Marcinko replaced drummer Jamey Haddad a few years back, and Phil Markowitz's departure trimmed the group from a quintet to a quartet, even though the keyboardist continues collaborating with Liebman to this day, most recently on Saxophone Summit's Seraphic Light (Telarc, 2008). Bassist Tony Marino and guitarist Vic Juris remain to this day, contributing to David Liebman Group's reputation as one of the most thrilling live groups going.
The Miles Davis/Gil Evans Collaborations(Jazz Heads Records)
Manhattan School of Music Jazz Orchestra
Miles Ahead Live
1. Springsville 2. The Maids of Cadiz 3. The Duke 4. My Ship 5. Miles Ahead 6. Blues for Pablo 7. New Rhumba 8. The Meaning of The Blues 9. Lament 10. I Don't Wanna Be Kissed
Porgy and Bess Live
1. The Buzzard Song 2. Bess, You Is My Woman Now 3. Gone 4. Gone, Gone, Gone 5. Summertime 6. Oh, Bess, Oh Where's My Bess 7. Prayer 8. Fisherman, Strawberry and Devil Crab 9. My Man's Gone Now 10. It Ain't Necessarily So 11. Here Comes de Honey Man 12. I Loves You, Porgy 13. There's a Boat That's Leaving Soon For New York
Sketches of Spain Live
1. Concierto De Aranjuez 2. Will O' The Wisp 3. The Pan Piper 4. Saeta 5. Solea
Hear Sample Tracks
I'm sure that when Miles Davis and Gil Evans recorded Miles Ahead in 1957, they weren't thinking that it would eventually lead to a trip of classic collaborations, with the addition of Porgy and Bess, and Sketches of Spain. Or, after having achieved this trifecta, they would have imagined that five decades later these works would become vehicles for new interpretations by other soloists.
Fortunately, this music has found new life in other hands. Among the most noteworthy renderings are the joint efforts of Dave Liebmand and Justin DiCioccio, who have performed these masterworks, and recorded them live, one CD at a time, between 2003 and 2009. Now they have been brought together under one roof, so to speak, and that is a very good thing.
We learn from Liebman's opening remarks here that it was not until after he and DiCioccio decided to release the concert performance of Sketches of Spain that "in our minds was the temptation to go the distance with the entire tryptich."
By accepting that daunting challenge with an individualistc, interpretive power, Dave broadened and deepened his artistic core as an improvisational musician.
As overseer of these projects, Justin DiCioccio is to be highly commended for his insightful efforts. However, it goes beyond that. The professional excellence of the Manhattan School of Music Jazz Orchestra reflects directly on his abilities as a conductor, while also relating to his overall guidance as Chairman of the Jazz Arts Program and, in turn, to the estimable teachers of that program.
New York, New York, 2009
With the release of this set, I can accurately say that closure has been accomplished. For a performer that represents a very positive feeling. When Justing and I started this cycle, deciding to release the live Sketches of Spain concert presented at Manhattan School of Music nearly a decade ago, we were already tempted to go the distance with the entire triptych. One more live performance (no second takes!!) of Miles Ahead, and a recording session of Porgy and Bess completed the work. I am very appreciative that Jazzheads agreed to release the music as a whole. And of course, my sincerest gratitude goes to all the students over the years who have contributed. We all went beyond the "educational" aspect of a school activity and entered the realm of art.
As I have noted previously, playing the part of Miles Davis created a challenge unlike any other, primarily because he was such a major stylist with a definitive musical personality. Employing the soprano sax as the main voice surely allowed me some freedom, but most of all there was my inner voice, mantra-like, reminding me to keep it simple and straight ahead, allowing the music that Gil composed to be the mail focal point. I can recall countless philosophical discussions with both mentors and peers over the years about letting the music itself determine the course of events, trusting and not having to put anything on it. To the best of my abilities, I tried to let the music guide me, blending into the writing and following the flow, as Miles did so well. Of course, what incredible music to be playing over- the colors, the harmony and the mood beyond descruption. This was one of the great experiences of my musical lige and a privilege to be a part of. My eternal thanks to Justin, who truly knows how to bring the music and, even more, the bibrations all together, every time.
Understandably, some listeners who are suspicious of the jazz-as-repertory-music approach will wonder why Sketches of Spainneeded to be revisited. But here’s the good news: Sketches of Spain Live is about interpretation, not emulation. Liebman, DiCioccio and the MSM Jazz Orchestra are smart enough to avoid making an exact replica of Davis’ classic.
Relevance (Red Toucan Records-Canada)
Dave Liebman-tenor and soprano saxophones, wooden flute Evan Praker-tenor and soprano saxophones Tony Bianco-drums
Recorded live at the Vortex,London England, Jan 27 2008
1. Relevance (First Set) Part I- 23:46
2. Relevance, Part II- 12:18
3. Relevance (Second Set) Part III- 27:27
4. Relevance, Part IV- 10:02
Hear Sample Tracks
"Relevance", Set 2
After decades of playing with musicians from the famous to the esoteric to relatively unknown, there still exists for me a wish list of those who for one reason or another I haven’t performed or recorded with. Near the top of my list was saxophonist Evan Parker. With the help of an old friend and compatriot, Tony Bianco, we were able to arrange a gig at the Vortex in London for the BBC. Of course I have always had the utmost respect for Evan’s art, his unique technical mastery and longstanding reputation as one of the masters of the free jazz idiom. As would be expected for such an occasion we said hello, went directly to the stage and improvised two sets. I will remember this evening as one of my best experiences with a peer saxophonist. Tony as always provided the perfect flowing and consistent “carpet” for us to commune together.
As Evan and I both evolved from the Coltrane aesthetic, I think that this meeting could be seen in some ways as similar to the encounter we all know of Newk and Trane on “Tenor Madness” (1957) — different approaches to a common language. (I would imagine to dedicated jazz listeners, this meeting will also be of some historical value.)
Thanks to Robert Abel at the BBC for his cooperation in getting the music released; to Ali at the Vortex which is a great venue for just such events to occur; and most of all to Evan and Tony for their incredible energy and spirit.
According to Dave Liebman's liners on Relevance, he's wanted to play with Evan Parker for a long time, and as Parker has always shown a willingness to make new musical acquaintances on the bandstand (witness the various lineups of his recent two-week stint at The Stone in New York), drummer Bianco accordingly arranged a January 27, 2008 performance at the Vortex. The results, taped by the BBC, were two improvised trio sets of slightly under 40 minutes apiece. Each begins with a long blowout, rounding things off with a shorter, more pensive coda; the saxophonists switch between tenor and soprano, with Liebman adding bamboo flute at the conclusion. In the second set they seem more comfortable with each other's playing, and the performance is perhaps slightly more satisfying, but the initial squaring off of two Coltrane-influenced tenors has its own unique pleasures. Parker is as always adaptable to his partner's approach, sublimating his standard soprano pyrotechnics into a more collaborative form, particularly in the second set, where he introduces some odd Monkish elements that elicit a ferocious tenor performance from Liebman. Liebman refers to Bianco's drumming as "a flowing and consistent carpet": fair enough, though you might want to add "roiling" to that description. Liebman compares this encounter to the "Tenor Madness" meeting of Coltrane and Rollins, which might seem an overweening comparison but isn't all that off-base given the stature of the participants. Like that encounter, Relevance might well be only a one-off, but it's an excellent one, documenting the give and take of two modern masters of the saxophone.–SG
The two-way dialog Dave and Evan get going is rather breathtaking and Bianco is perfectly irrepressible, insatiable in his stoking of the flames. Those that don’t care for the all-stops-open hoot-out should stay away from this one. Others will find some of the best playing on record for both saxophonists. Now that’s saying something. Liebman’s chromatic mastery and sound color control is something to hear and Evan continues at the top of his game. Simply ravishing!
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
by Ken Waxman
Relevance offers one of the most spectacular examples of unrestrained tenor—and soprano—madness since John Coltrane recorded with Pharoah Sanders. Instructively it's difficult to tell one reedist from the other, a fact that is unsurprising since both men's styles initially derive from Trane. While the duets are linear, any fireworks expressed are kept within the creative framework by the solid rolls, pops and jagged rebounds of Bianco. From the beginning it's likely Liebman on tenor who latches onto hocketing squeaks and extended vibrato runs while Parker's tenor playing evolves from irregular diaphragm-forced runs to reed biting. More moderato on sopranos, the two create in double counterpoint. Only in the second set does Parker use circular breathing; in response Liebman unrolls throat-tightening dissonance and triple-tonguing. Before switching back to tenors for an additional layer of contrapuntal contours, one saxophonist sounds an adagio tone that could come from a country blues fiddle.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
by Mark Corroto
It is hard to imagine that these two saxophone titans, Dave Liebman and Evan Parker, had never met on stage before this 2008 concert at The Vortex in London. Both are innovators with a distinct, almost larger than life sound and they combine forces to make this meeting very special. Back in the 1970s, Liebman was chosen by Miles Davis to help drive the trumpeter's sound on recordings like On The Corner (Columbia, 1972), Dark Magus (Columbia, 1974), and Get Up With It (Columbia, 1974). At the same time, Parker was fostering the European free music scene with Peter Brotzmann and Chris McGregor. Fast-forward some thirty plus years and both musicians have established solid careers and dedicated followers. Putting the two saxophonists on stage together tempts an old fashion cutting contest or perhaps a last- man-standing show of endurance, however this is not the case. The energy of these two sets may be draining, but it's that good kind of tired. Credit goes to Tony Bianco, the New York born drummer who has made a career playing free jazz in Europe. His unremitting pulse sustains this date throughout, playing with such ferocity that neither saxophonist has the opportunity or possibility to overshadow the other. It might be said that he steals the show. The recording is broken down into two sets and four parts. The first three parts are barn burners, matching both Liebman and Parker on tenor saxophones, soprano saxophones, and a combination of both. Neither treads upon the other's territory, instead they opt to circle each other, encouraging a seemingly constant increase in animation. Spread between the right and left channel, the beauty of each player's sound is revealed. The last "Part 4," acts as the audience's re-entry with Liebman switching to flute and Parker maintaining his signature soprano sound. With Bianco on mallets, the ease of the trio's interaction allowing everyone to regain their real world senses.
Saxophonist Dave Liebman is an absolute sax virtuoso, but his stylistic range is so wide, and his musical appetites so broad, that you never know what you get when you buy his albums : the music can be mellow and bland, new-agey superficial, yet equally creative or adventurous.
Dave Liebman explains in the liner notes that he has a wish list of musicians he wants to perform with, and that Evan Parker was on top of that list. Drummer Tony Bianco managed to arrange a gig. The three met, and without further ado hit the stage for a fully improvised concert, resulting in this fantastic album. The first piece starts as a "tenor battle" in the best tradition, a real blow fest in which the two hornsmen meet and greet, challenge and respond, push forward and push forward, relentlessly supported by Bianco's nervous and thundering drumming, and when you think they will calm down a bit, the exact opposite happens: tension increases, energy levels are raised, with each one stepping back for a few minutes to let the other play solo a little, but then they lock horns again, and yes, they do calm down, giving Bianco some space, but that is of course only until the storm breaks loose again.
The second piece starts calm and meditatively, with the two saxes easily finding a common language and tone, but then halfway the piece Bianco seems tired of their musings and increases the tempo, and the intensity of the sax dialogue, which continues to evolve in the best traditions of the "Tenor Madness" album by Sonny Rollins with John Coltrane that Liebman refers to in the liner notes, with the only difference, that what Liebman and Parker get out of their saxes was not only inconceivable in 1957, but it surely must sound as real madness to the two jazz legends. The last track starts with drum rumbling and bamboo flute, then Parker takes over on sax, for some shamanistic yet sensitive playing.
Even if these two virtuosi have never played together, the ease with which they find common ground, in every respect, is stunning. So is the music. Fierce, energetic and surprisingly warm.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
by Mark Corroto
It's hard to imagine that these two saxophone titans, Dave Liebman and Evan Parker, had never met on stage before this 2008 concert at The Vortex in London. Both are innovators with a distinct, almost larger than life sound and they combine forces to make this meeting very special.
Back in the 1970s, Liebman was chosen by Miles Davis to help drive the trumpeter's sound on recordings like On The Corner(Columbia, 1972), Dark Magus (Columbia, 1974), and Get Up With It (Columbia, 1974). At the same time, Parker was fostering the European free music scene with Peter Brotzmann and Chris McGregor. Fast-forward some thirty plus years and both musicians have established solid careers and dedicated followers.
Putting the two saxophonists on stage together tempts an old fashion cutting contest or perhaps a last- man-standing show of endurance, however this is not the case. The energy of these two sets may be draining, but it's that good kind of tired.
Credit goes to Tony Bianco, the New York born drummer who has made a career playing free jazz in Europe. His unremitting pulse sustains this date throughout, playing with such ferocity that neither saxophonist has the opportunity or possibility to overshadow the other. It might be said that he steals the show.
The recording is broken down into two sets and four parts. The first three parts are barn burners, matching both Liebman and Parker on tenor saxophones, soprano saxophones, and a combination of both. Neither treads upon the other's territory, instead they opt to circle each other, encouraging a seemingly constant increase in animation. Spread between the right and left channel, the beauty of each player's sound is revealed. The last "Part 4," acts as the audience's re-entry with Liebman switching to flute and Parker maintaining his signature soprano sound. With Bianco on mallets, the ease of the trio's interaction allowing everyone to regain their real world senses.
Five On One (Pirouet Records-Germany)
"BEST RELEASES-2010"-ALL ABOUT JAZZ
John Abercrombie- Guitar
Drew Gress- Bass
Marc Copland- Piano
David Liebman- Tenor and Soprano Saxophones
Billy Hart- Drums
1. Sendup (John Abercrombie)
2. Like It Never Was (Drew Gress)
3. Childmoon Smile (Marc Copland)
4. Four On One (John Abercrombie)
5. Lost Horizon (Caris Visentin, David Liebman)
6. Retractable Cell (John Abercrombie)
7. My Refrain (Drew Gress)
8. Lullaby For IMKE (Billy Hart)
9. You And The Night And The Music (Arthur Schwartz, Howard Dietz)
If, indeed, albums are living breathing beings—and this might well be so—then the beating heart of Five on One, by the marvelous Contact ensemble, is "Lost Horizon," a mighty, burbling piece of music that appears to come from a cornucopia of modern sound. It is mysterious, magical and hypnotic, and brings waves of sound that lap incessantly into the inner ear with that warm undertow made memorable by five of the most eminent musicians of this day. Incandescent saxophonist Dave Liebman melds undulating sound with the mellifluous tonal palette of guitarist John Abercrombie.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
By Joel Roberts
5 on One is the debut album by what can only be called a supergroup of progressive jazz luminaries: soprano and tenor saxophonist Dave Liebman, guitarist John Abercrombie, pianist Marc Copland, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Billy Hart. While the members of the quintet, recording under the name Contact, have never played together as a group before, they’re far from strangers.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
by Troy Collins
Five on One features five of the most renowned artists in modern jazz working together as a cooperative ensemble under the name Contact. Saxophonist Dave Liebman, guitarist John Abercrombie, pianist Marc Copland, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Billy Hart transcend the aesthetic limitations of many similar all-star gatherings with their complementary sensibilities, garnered over the years in various configurations.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
by Dan Bilawsky
The practice of forming super groups in jazz can be fraught with disaster. Festival promoters often try to draw audiences by lumping musicians together in all-star settings, but a lack of chemistry, familiarity, common ground or interest, often turns these events into yawn-inducing bores. All four of these boundaries, thankfully, don't come into play with Contact—the collaborative quintet responsible for Five On One.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
by Dan McClenaghan
The band called Contact is about as all-star an affair as can be found in modern jazz, and it's hard to imagine any serious listener not having a favorite among the players, whether it's saxophonist and renaissance man Dave Liebman, pianist Marc Copland—whose marvelous New York Trio Recordings pushed his profile up closer to where it belongs—ECM Records stalwart/guitarist John Abercrombie, veteran drummer Billy Hart, or ubiquitous super sideman/bassist Drew Gress. Five on One burns brightly, with a highly cohesive chamber ensemble sound, with no star outshining the others.
STEP TEMPEST (internet)
By Richard Kamins
Contact is composed of five master musicians - Dave Liebman (tenor & soprano saxophones), Marc Copland (piano), John Abercrombie (guitar), Drew Gress (bass) and Billy Hart (drums) each has been on the "scene" for a good while. Everyone contributes, at least, one original piece and they save the one standard, "You and the Night and the Music" for the final track.
by Brad Walseth
Talk about your supergroups: the five members of Contact: saxophonist Dave Liebman, guitarist John Abercrombie, pianist Marc Copland, drummer Billy Hart and bassist Drew Gress, have played together in various incarnations over the years, but this is the first occasion all five have been involved together in a recording - and it is a welcome moment for jazz fans indeed. Abercrombie's "Sendup" starts things off brightly - Liebman's glorious soprano sax floating above Abercrombie's intricate knots and Copland's piano sheen. Gress - the youngest member - is especially vibrant, while Hart displays his veteran touch on this jaunty number.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
By John Kelman
They've played together in various permutations and combinations, but Five on One represents the first time they've joined together as a discrete unit. Reconvening the Second Look (Savoy, 1996) quartet—which comprises four-fifths of Contact— pianistMarc Copland proved you can go back again with Another Place (Pirouet, 2009).
NO TREBLE MAGAZINE
by Phil Wain
There is some delightful music here rewarding an active listener with its subtle inventions and interactions. The atmosphere is mostly fairly restrained: no “passionate” show-boating, few extremes of mood, just inventive and beautiful music. You might not have heard of Contact but you have heard of some of the musicians: Dave Liebman, Billy Hart and John Abercrombie.
by Doug Simpson
While Five on One might seem like a professional wrestling pile-up or a hockey power play, it actually refers to five masterful musicians joined together for the first time on one album: saxophonist Dave Liebman, guitarist John Abercrombie, pianist Marc Copland, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Billy Hart. Five on One is also a sly nod to John Abercrombie’s piece in this collection, “Four on One.”
Further Conversations (True Azul Records)
The Dave Liebman Group (Vic Juris, Tony Marino, Marko Marcinko)
Recorded Live at the Mayfair Festival of the Arts, Allentown, PA USA-May 2007
1. Shorty George by Vic Juris
2. Victim by Vic Juris
3. Compared To Who by Vic Juris
4. Green Dolphin Street
5. Anubis by Dave Liebman
Hear Sample Tracks
"Compared To Who" by Vic Juris
As I say in the beginning of this live performance, this is really guitarist Vic Juris’ recording. He has been with me since 1991 and in that period, it has been amazing to witness his evolution. I have never seen a musician grow at such a rate. Always an accomplished jazz player with all the credentials, Vic has morphed into a one of a kind artist. What you hear on this recording is a guitarist who is called upon to function in every conceivable manner: compose, solo, accompany, create atmosphere and more. As far as Tony Marino, everyone who knows him says the same thing: “How does he do it? Where is this guy from?” I have played more with Tony than almost anyone on the planet and I think I have had to say less than three words of musical directions to him in all our time together. Tony just knows what to do and as a matter of course can play anything. Marko, with an amazing amount of natural talent has matured into a great group player, who orchestrates the excitement level of the band and plays full out all the time. To these three guys, my eternal gratitude for their loyalty and discipline, helping me to sustain my belief in the power of a true group sound.
There was nothing extraordinary about the setting for this performance- not many people, not really a “jazz” environment, late afternoon in the rain playing tunes recorded a few years ago for the most part on “Conversation” (Sunnyside). But for some reason we were really on the case and each of these tunes really hits the mark. Enjoy!
From Free Press
By Mark Stryker
The current Dave Liebman Group has been together since 2000, but some of the players have been with the restlessly creative tenor and soprano saxophonist since the early '90s. The benefit of such extensive shared bandstand experience is all over "Further Conversations -- Live" (****, True Azul), recorded at a Pennsylvania arts festival in 2007. Liebman, guitarist Vic Juris, bassist Tony Marino and drummer Marko Marcinko attack a diverse book of originals with a focused intensity, telepathy and casual authority you don't hear much in an era when so many bands are manufactured for the festival circuit or studio.
Liebman's post-Coltrane aesthetic marries aggressive improvisational journeys with a pliant eclecticism that takes in odd meters, ethnic rhythms, funk and fusion, paint-a-landscape ballads, dense harmony and free jazz. "Shorty George," "Victim" and "Anubis" have a suite-like quality as elastic forms morph between contrasting sections, ideas and textures. Even in reflective moments, however, there's latent combustion. When the dark sonorities of Liebman's tenor or the cantorial wail of his soprano reach fever pitch, the music pulsates with catharsis.
(Available as download only on iTunes, Amazon MP3, Rhapsody and other digital sources.)
Something Sentimental (Kind Of Blue Records-Switzerland)
(Another) Nuttree Quartet David Liebman John Abercrombie Jay Anderson Adam Nussbaum
1. Poinciana 2. I Hear a Rhapsody 3. Lover Man 4. Besame Mucho 5. All of Me 6. All the Things You Are 7. It's Alright with Me 8. The Party's Over
Hear Sample Tracks
Dave Liebman - soprano saxophone, wooden flute John Abercrombie - guitar Adam Nussbaum - drums Jay Anderson - bass
Liner notes by Adam Nussbaum:
This special project came about when we played together to honor my mother, Muriel, who passed away in April, 2007 at the age of 83. My Mom had always said she wanted a celebration, not a funeral. Family and friends gathered together to reminisce and we played songs that my Mom had enjoyed throughout her life.
It was an emotional time and it was nice to make music with these wonderful musicians, as we have been treasured friends for over 30 years. Because it felt so good, we decided we should record.
This is dedicated to the memory of our dear parents-John and Elizabeth Abercrombie, Kenneth Anderson, Leo and Frances Liebman, Erv and Muriel Nussbaum and those incredible people who have touched our lives. The list is big…they live on in our hearts.
I’m not going to talk about the music. It simply is what it is. I hope you enjoy “Something Sentimental.”
All About Jazz
by John Kelman
With the realization that there will always be more music coming at him than he can keep up with, AAJ Managing Editor John Kelman wonders why anyone would think that jazz is dead or dying. It's always a pleasure to hear a group of musicians who, over the years, have developed not just a strong musical bond, but a personal one as well. Read the full review here.
From the Guardian-London
Peerless players as its members are, it's hard to imagine the Nuttree Quartet's standards-rooted swing bending the ears of a non-buff audience. But if Something Sentimental is a pretty straightahead account of classic jazz vehicles, including the Ahmad Jamal hit Poinciana, Lover Man, Besame Mucho and All the Things You Are, it draws some exceptional variations from two principal soloists: saxophonist Dave Liebman and guitarist John Abercrombie. On bass and drums are Jay Anderson and the formidable Adam Nussbaum. Liebman plays soprano sax throughout, and balances his improviser's instinct for off-the-radar phrasing with a traditional approach that sometimes suggests the lyricism of Lee Konitz, and occasionally even the scalding tones of Sidney Bechet. Liebman arrestingly opens Besame Mucho with hollow, windy sounds on a wooden flute, but follows Abercrombie's subtly-weighted guitar solo on the same piece with a cutting, whooping soprano solo in its swing section. All of Me and It's All Right With Me refer to trad jazz, but with postbop's feints and bends. There aren't too many surprises, but it's lovingly done.
All About Jazz
by Bill Milkowski
Old friends and colleagues -- drummer Adam Nussbaum, guitarist John Abercrombie, bassist Jay Anderson and saxophonist Dave Liebman -- joined together at a party in May of 2007 to celebrate Nussbaum’s mother Muriel, who passed away in April of 2007 at age 83. The chemistry that they felt on that day was so special that they decided to go into Anderson’s New Paltz studio in November of that year and document a collection of standards which had been among Muriel’s favorite.Nussbaum puts up his own unique groove underneath “Poinciana,” which has Abercrombie delicately shadowing Liebman’s warm soprano sax lines on the familiar, hummable melody before breaking loose on an ethereal improvisation. Abercrombie’s wonderful extrapolation on “I Hear a Rhapsody” is underscored by Nussbaum’s slick, syncopated brushwork and Anderson’s contrapuntal basslines on the sparse opening. Switching to sticks, Nussbaum then fuels the swing section which features some brilliant solo work by Anderson and Liebman. Liebman plays wooden flute on the opening to “Besame Mucho” before switching to soprano sax and wailing over a swinging undercurrent. Their uptempo rendition of “All of Me” has Abercrombie and Liebman engaging in some playful exchanges throughout, with the guitarist alternately laying down pianistic comping and commenting on the saxophonist’s sprightly lines. Elsewhere, these friends for over 30 years turn in similarly interactive renditions of “Lover Man” (with Anderson stating the melody upfront before supporting gentle, probing solos by Abercrombie and Liebman), “All the Things You Are” (done as an elegant waltz and featuring a nice solo from Nussbaum) and “It’s Alright With Me” (which alternately swings in 4/4 then morphs into a lively mambo beat). The remarkably empathetic quartet closes with a relaxed, midtempo swinging rendition of “The Party’s Over,” a soulful and heartfelt tribute to Adam’s mom.
From Jazz and Blues Blogspot
This group with the interesting name is a jazz collective consisting of John Abercrombie on guitar, Jay Anderson on bass, Dave Liebman on soprano sax and wooden flute and Adam Nussbaumon drums. Originally convened to honor Nussbaum's recently departed mother, this record is filled with celebrations for lives well lived. Read the full review here.
Nomads (Jazz Werkstatt-Germany)
David Liebman and Michael Stephans
1. Nomads 2. The Windup 3. Dusk 4. Get Happy 5. Sparrows 6. Mingus Ah Um 7. Orange Moon 8. Tie Those Laces 9. Down and Gone 10. Connect the Dots 11. Honeysuckle Rose 12. Imagination 13. Shape Shifters 14. Ephemeral
Hear Sample Tracks
"Tie Those Laces"
Ever Moving, Ever Changing
Nomadic communities are often thought of as those peoples who travel from place to place, residing in each locale for only a brief period of time before moving on. Their lives appear to be fluid and ever changing, as dictated by the nature and demands of their momentary surroundings.
Whitney Balliett, the esteemed and much-imitated jazz writer for the New Yorker magazine, once called jazz “the sound of surprise.” Maybe another way to put that would be to say that when listening to (or playing) improvised music, you should always be ready to expect the unexpected. These descriptive statements are certainly true of this date. Dave Liebman and I had no preconceptions here, other than the compositions we would play and the instruments we would play them on. The rest, to our way of thinking, would take care of itself.
When we decided to undertake this project and record a series of short- and longer-form duets, one of our goals was to extend the boundaries of our usual roles (saxophonist / drummer) in order to traverse a musical landscape that celebrates the traditional, the contemporary, and the surreal aspects of many genres of music. Utilizing the intimacy of the duo format, we each play seven instruments on original compositions, songs from the American songbook, classic jazz repertoire, and totally improvised pieces – using genres such as jazz, classical, world music, and hip hop as vehicles to fuel our creative energies. Each track on this CD is different from the other, as Lieb and I – in true nomadic fashion – stop here and there long enough to explore some of the many facets of the musical art.
Each composition, with the exception of the totally improvised “Shape Shifters” and “Orange Moon,” was chosen by us for its expressive potential. Our decisions about what instruments would be utilized on each track, were made much the same way a painter like Vasarely or Klee would choose to present his colors and shapes on a canvas. Lieb, who is known world-wide as a master saxophonist, expanded his pallet on these duets by exhibiting his considerable skills on the c-flute, the wooden flute, piano, drums, and voice. In addition to the drums, I played pocket cornet, the rarely heard e-flat alto valve trombone, piano, Tibetan singing bowls, assorted percussions, and I also utilized my voice, as both a tone color and as a storyteller.
Both Lieb and I very much enjoyed breathing life into these duets. As you listen to our music, you’ll hear the entire range of what two open and empathetic human beings can do, purely for the love of doing it. And what could be better than that?
Michael Stephans November 2008
Mike mentions the word storyteller in his notes. I think that what we have done here is exactly that – telling stories, much like the ancient elders gathered around the fireplace, reciting for the community. By the time you get to our stage of life as a human being and musician, it is after all, truly storytelling. It is the tale of one’s life in conjunction with a partner(s), recited in the moment, using one or another musical vehicle and in this case, instrument, as a means of expression. Nomads tell stories for the ages – accumulated wisdom for all to dig. Of course, it goes without saying that such a level of communication can only be accomplished with one’s musical peers and in Mike, I have found another brother of the highest order
Dave Liebman November 2008
A Few Notes About The Music
Track 1: Nomads (wood flute + percussion) Based upon a repetitive 26-beat pattern (played as 7-7-7-5)
Track 2: The Windup (soprano saxophone + drums) A composition by Keith Jarrett from his ECM quartet recording, Belonging.
Track 3: Dusk (piano + drums) A pensive and little-known piece by Duke Ellington arranged by Lieb, who plays piano here.
Track 4: Get Happy (tenor saxophone + drums) The 1929 classic by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler.
Track 5: Sparrows (soprano saxophone + pocket cornet) Homage to Steve Lacy and Don Cherry.
Track 6: Mingus Ah Um (tenor saxophone + rap + drums) The hip-hop version of a poem written for Mingus by Mike.
Track 7: Orange Moon (mouthpiece-less soprano saxophone + voice) Homage to composer George Crumb.
Track 8: Tie Those Laces (tenor saxophone + drums) A piece by Lieb written for his daughter, Lydia.
Track 9: Down and Gone (recitation + piano + electronics) Lieb recites a Stephans poem with Mike on piano.
Track 10: Connect the Dots (Eb valve trombone + drums) A piece by Stephans, here on the alto horn, with Lieb on drums.
Tracks 11-12: Two Solo Pieces: Honeysuckle Rose (Waller, Razaf) – Stephans on drums Imagination (Burke, Van Heusen) – Liebman, reharmonizing on piano
Track 13: Shape Shifters An extended suite, with Lieb on soprano sax, piano, and tenor sax in that order, with Stephans on drums throughout.
Track 14: Ephemeral (c-flute + Tibetan singing bowls / percussion): A spare four-note motif played on the Tibetan bowls anchors Lieb’s flute.
From All About Jazz:
Veteran saxophonist Dave Liebman is no stranger to experimentation, cutting his teeth playing with Elvin Jones and then Miles Davis’ groundbreaking fusion group in the ‘70s. Drummer/poet Michael Stephans has played with everyone from Pharoah Sanders and John Patitucci to classic rock legends David Bowie and the Rolling Stones. On Nomads, the duo takes on many genres and multiple instruments; the result an ambitiously eclectic album, wandering the musical gambit from originals to reharmonized standards and forgotten pieces by jazz greats.
The CD opens with a lone flute followed by the primitive beating of hand drums, evoking the untouched, desolate landscape of the black and white
photos that fill the liner notes. Quickly, the duo change feels with a joyous rendition of Keith Jarrett’s “The Windup”, featuring an extended drum solo and Liebman playing the perky melody on soprano sax. One of the most satisfying discoveries of Nomads is Liebman’s impressive ability as a piano player. He plays the rarely heard Duke Ellington piece “Dusk” with a light, confident touch that cuts to the beautiful melancholy lurking below the surface. His solo reharmonization of the Burke-Van Heusen classic “Imagination” provides an amuse bouche of sorts for the main course that is “Shape Shifters”, a 14-minute opus that has Liebman moving from slow and moody soprano sax phrases to finely constructed piano reminiscent of Bill Evans to a ferocious tenor finale.
Stephans excels not only at holding down the beat and supplying many flourishes, but also at playing a mean alto trombone on the fast-paced “Connect the Dots”, throwing in a quick melodic reference to “Luck Be a Lady” while Liebman keeps the beat on the drums. Stephans’ wordsmith prowess comes to the foreground in “Mingus Ah Um”, a jazz-hop interpretation of a poem he wrote for the great bassist.
Nomads is definitely not for the traditional listener. It’s full of twists through seemingly disparate genres, subverting popular thought of what a contemporary jazz album should be. While the transitions between songs are often jarring, the whole is immensely satisfying and electrifying.
All About Jazz
by John Kelman:
If ever there was a title to best fit Dave Liebman, it would be Nomads. Stylistically, the reedman's life has represented an endless traverse of infinite musical landscapes, ranging from freely improvised music with Australia-based pianist Mike Nock on Duologue(Birdland, 2007), and modern, open-ended mainstream with longtime musical partner, pianist Richie Beirach—heard most recently on the Mosaic box set, Pendulum: Live at the Village Vanguard (2008)—to Miles Davis-informed fusion on Back on the Corner(Tone Center, 2007) and the world-influenced Lookout Farm (ECM, 1974). Percussionist Michael Stephans is lesser known but, with a multi-disciplinary life spanning education, writing, and performing, he's an equal searcher in the musical continuum, a recent participant on reedman Bennie Maupin's wonderful comeback, Penumbra (Cryptogramophone, 2006).
Saxophone is Liebman's main axe—more specifically, the soprano, on which no other jazz player has built so personal a sound and discography since the death of John Coltrane. Over his 40-year-plus career, however, he's expanded his sonic arsenal. OnNomads' series of free improvisations, original compositions, and free-wheeling standards reinventions, Liebman also plays piano, flutes, drums, and, on "Down and Gone," even recites one of Stephans' poems, accompanied by the drummer—heard, this time, on piano. In addition to piano, drums, and percussion, Stephans plays e-flat valve trombone on his own "Connect the Dots," which swings freely thanks to Liebman's surprisingly fine drumming; cornet on another original, his abstruse tribute to Steve Lacy andDon Cherry, "Sparrows," with Lieb on soprano; and Tibetan singing bowls on the eastern-tinged and aptly titled closing improv, "Ephemeral."
Clearly these are players with ears and minds wide open. The opening title track finds them in a game of call-and-response before settling into a more rhythm-heavy focus on Liebman's wooden flute and Stephans' uncharacteristically melodic drum kit. Liebman's tenor sets a gritty tone for "Mingus Ah Um," while Stephans' hip hop beat and rap link a contemporary genre with the freer beat poetry of the 1950s.
The covers are just as compelling...and unpredictable. Keith Jarrett 's "The Windup" opens with a drum solo in New Orleans Second Line territory but, when Liebman's soprano enters for the familiar theme, Stephans quickly lightens up. Still, once the soloing begins, the gloves come off as the two engage in a fiery exchange that doesn't lose sight of Jarrett's original intent. Duke Ellington 's "Dusk" gets a dramatic reading, this time with Liebman on piano, while the Harold Arlen /Ted Koehler classic, "Get Happy," turns bouyant, with Stephans and Liebman (on tenor) keeping the momentum of the changes implied, even when reduced to nothing more than a linear instrument and drums.
Which is, ultimately, the beauty of Nomads. A free blowing session at its core, perhaps, but Liebman and Stephans' allegiance to the essence of every song—spontaneous or preconceived—remains paramount throughout. Such attention elevates Nomadsbeyond its admittedly exciting interplay to music truly without boundaries, where freedom means the choice to do anything this intrepid duo desires.
Pendulum (Mosaic Select)
Live at the Village Vanguard
David Liebman, Randy Brecker, Richie Beirach, Frank Tusa, Al Foster
Disc One 1. Pendulum 2. Picadilly Lilly 3. Footprints
Disc Two 1. There Is No Greater Love 2. Solar 3. Picadilly Lilly 4. Night And Day
Disc Three 1. Blue Bossa 2. Well. You Needn't 3. Bonnie's Blue 4. Impressions
Hear Sample Tracks
Matt Pierson's Liner Notes
The 1970’s. More traditionally-inclined members of the jazz world have often stated that it was a period when nothing much was happening. Trane didn’t survive the sixties, Miles had plugged in, and we lost Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington in ’71 and ’74 respectively. As Branford Marsalis stated during the final episode of Ken Burns’ documentary Jazz, “Jazz just kind of died. It just kind of went away for awhile….A lot of the more talented younger generation that was supposed to come up did something else, and that had never happened before.”
I can certainly understand the point that many of the younger players were attracted mainly to non-traditional jazz forms, but the idea that jazz just “went away” in the seventies couldn’t be farther from the truth.
In fact, the decade may very well represent the most fascinatingly active period in the history of jazz. A drastic stylistic expansion was taking place, mainly due to the innovations of the post-Bitches Brew “fusion” groups (Weather Report, Headhunters, Return to Forever, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, etc.) However, just as exiting was the whirlwind of activity that was taking place in the acoustic jazz world. The influence of hard bop, free jazz, soul jazz, European jazz (mainly by way of recordings on the ECM label) along with the pervasive impact of Miles Davis’ classic sixties quintet as well as John Coltrane’s later work inspired a generation of distinctive artists to create some extraordinarily refreshing and original music.
The challenge that faced a young jazz musician after 1970 was daunting, especially if one were inclined to absorb the many diverse stylistic directions in which the art form was heading. Indeed, it would be a logical assumption that the wildly adventurous and challenging seventies led to the need for the neo-traditionalist movement of the eighties. When faced with great challenge, it made sense to go back to the basics.
Although on its surface Pendulum is just one more in a long line of Live at the Village Vanguard recordings documenting great players adeptly blowing on standards and a couple of originals, it is so much more than that. What is clear three decades later is that for these five brilliant musicians, it wasn’t enough to embrace the great stylistic diversity of previous years; it was also essential that, in doing so, one must still connect with the great lineage of acoustic small group improvisation that led up to it.
Saxophonist Dave Liebman fell squarely into the first generation of players who grew out of the remarkably fertile musical environment of the late sixties. His varied pursuits provided him with a broad and open-minded creative outlook. After his graduation from NYU in 1968 (with a degree in American History no less), Liebman settled into the New York jazz scene, building a network of like-minded young players and eventually forming the free jazz cooperative organization Free Life Communication. After joining up with the jazz rock outfit Ten Wheel Drive, participating in John McLaughlin’s groundbreaking recording My Goals Beyond, and working extensively with jazz legends Elvin Jones and Miles Davis, he founded three distinctive ensembles: the Open Sky Trio (with Bob Moses and Frank Tusa), the world music influenced Lookout Farm, and the funkified Ellis-Liebman Band (with fellow saxophonist and James Brown alumnus, Pee Wee Ellis).
As a player, Liebman was clearly in the very first wave of post-Coltrane tenorists. There was certainly a lot of Trane to go around, with Bob Berg focused on his earlier recordings and Steve Grossman and Michael Brecker expanding upon the middle Impressions period to name but a few. Although he had carefully studied playing “inside,” Liebman was most attracted to Coltrane’s later, freer post-A Love Supreme work.
Over time, with so many younger players embracing this style of playing, Liebman became more and more interested in finding a direction that could be more distinctly his own. And although he still loved playing the tenor, it was clear that performing in the piano/bass/drums quartet setting would inevitably draw comparisons to the Coltrane quartet. This eventually led him to put together a group featuring guitarist John Scofield rather than a pianist around the time of this recording and, eventually, to drop the tenor from his arsenal for several years, focusing solely on the soprano
As Liebman states, “Once you’re assigned as being a certain way in the minds of the business, critics, record people, you can’t change that; you will always be known for that thing. You can’t separate yourself from the identity that you started out with at the beginning. So I realized that the only way that I could change this was to specialize on an instrument that appeared to have a more open terrain at that time. I had never studied Trane’s soprano playing like the tenor and I knew that because of that I had less of the (Coltrane) legacy on soprano which would maybe enable me to possibly find something different.”
However, although by 1978 he had begun to establish a very distinct approach to the higher-pitched instrument, he was still playing mostly tenor. And upon reflection (perhaps he was too self-critical), this recording attests to his fine playing on the big horn.
In the late sixties, while other young pianists were embracing electronic keyboards, Richie Beirach was immersing himself in 20th century classical music, focused on developing his own harmonic language. Although he had played electric piano with Lookout Farm (his solo on the classic “Loft Dance” from Drum Ode stands as one of the great Rhodes solos), his focus was squarely on the acoustic piano. While Herbie Hancock had absorbed the work of Debussey, Ravel, and the more romantic and impressionistic composers, Beirach tended to gravitate toward the dissonant work of Schoenberg, Scriabin, Takemitsu and others. The integration of these harmonic devices into the more accepted jazz piano approach earned him the nickname “The Code.”
However, in addition to expanding his own palette as an improviser, Richie used this harmonic “code” to drastic effect within the rhythm section. By combining his vast harmonic knowledge and rhythmic inventiveness with his incredible musical intuition and communicative abilities, he was able to lead a rhythm section in a nearly revolutionary way, creative the perfect environment for a soloist.
The unique relationship that was cultivated between Dave Liebman and Richie Beirach beginning in 1969 was exceptional. The deep symbiosis between them grew over the decade that followed and by the time of this gig at the Vanguard, their creative partnership had become one of the great unions in post-bop jazz, exhibiting a telepathic connection unparalleled this side of Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter. (To further explore their association, check out the 3-CD release David Liebman & Richie Beirach [Mosaic Select #12], a live collection featuring Lookout Farm, Quest, and duet performances.)
It all began when they met at Queens College in 1968. While studying at Manhattan School of Music, Beirach started showing up at Liebman’s loft on West 19th St., which along with Bob Moses’ and Gene Perla’s spaces was a regular jam session spot. Dozens of the most talented young players in New York took part, including Chick Corea, Dave Holland, Mike and Randy Brecker, Bob Berg, Steve Grossman, and many others. Musically, it was completely free, straight out of late Trane a la Ascension. They never called tunes or talked, they just played, and it was a great way to let loose creatively and get their chops together.
Since the live performance scene was so difficult, they decided to form Free Life Communication, performing 300 concerts in the first year in art galleries, museums, and other non-traditional performance spaces in the city before securing a grant which enabled them to have a permanent spot in the “Space for Innovative Development” on West 36th Street.
In 1971, bassist Gene Perla got the call to play with Elvin Jones and Liebman followed shortly thereafter. As their whole “loft thing” died down, they realized that it had been a very necessary episode imparting real musical lessons. As Dave puts it, “We came out of it with the idea that you can superimpose anything harmonically. You get used to the colors like a painter uses reds and blues and oranges, and you know the shadings. It’s like a number on a tension scale, from one to ten. The challenge is how to use it.”
After Liebman joined up with Miles Davis in 1973, he got the opportunity to record for ECM, and immediately called Richie, suggesting that they put their music together. This was the birth of Lookout Farm. Although the group didn’t have the high profile of some of the other “fusion” bands, their approach was actually more stylistically inclusive than most. As Liebman says, “I always felt that with Lookout Farm we were one of the groups that made eclecticism kosher. It’s okay to play ‘Lover Man’ in a duo a la Herbie and Miles and then go play over a G7 chord for twenty minutes with a backbeat, no problem.”
Finally, after three recordings with Lookout Farm and the 1975 duet recording Forgotten Fantasies, Liebman and Beirach took a break from each other. Dave had wanted to try a new direction, and had a patron who would support the Ellis/Liebman Band, so he moved out to San Francisco for two years while Beirach worked regularly with the John Abercrombie Quartet.
Upon his return to New York, Liebman arranged with club owner Max Gordon to play a week at the legendary Village Vanguard. Having played there before with Elvin Jones, Liebman had secured a week at the club a few years back for Lookout Farm. (As Dave remembers it, “Max went crazy. ‘Why do you play that soprano! Put that thing away, that screaming banshee!’.”)
The main point of the gig was to get back together with Beirach and pick up where they left off, pursuing their musical relationship within a more straight-ahead setting. In assembling this particular coterie of players, all of whom he had long-term relationships with, he knew that they could hit on the highest level from day one.
Liebman’s connection with trumpeter Randy Brecker went back even before the days of Free Life Communication. Randy’s well-earned reputation as one of the most versatile musicians in jazz has unfortunately drawn attention away from the fact that he is one of the great improvisers of his generation, as his playing throughout this recording clearly attests.
The relationship with Tusa went back even farther, to the mid-sixties and club dates at resorts in the Catskills. The prototypical workhorse bass player, Frank could always stand up with any drummer and keep the time absolutely solid, and although he and Al Foster had never worked together (at least not on any regular basis) the lock was immediate. Unfortunately, shortly after the Vanguard gig, Tusa moved out to California and left active playing except for some rare live performances.
As for the hard-swinging Foster, it’s hard to imagine a better choice. Since his first session at age 16 on the Blue Mitchell date The Thing To Do, he had established himself as a burning straight-ahead player. However, when he got the call to join Miles Davis’ group in 1972, it became clear that Al’s hard-driving and intuitive approach was adaptable to nearly any musical situation. Of course, Liebman joined the band the following year and the two established a deep connection.
The singular brilliance of these musicians notwithstanding, it is the expert direction of Richie Beirach that truly makes the group come alive. As Liebman puts it, “Richie was the helmsman. He loved to negotiate between the bass and drums and the soloist. He took control, and wasn’t timid about it.” Although it was nothing new to have active communication among the players in a group – collective improvisation is what has defined jazz from the beginning – rarely does the dialogue reach this level of complexity. Upon repeated hearing, each of these performances rewards the listener with the discovery of another level of interaction, be it tossing a melody back and forth, reacting to a rhythmic motif, creating complicated call and response moments, or just subtly egging each other on with a sly voicing or tricky figure.
Other than bringing in a few choice originals, the set list at the Vanguard was actually spontaneously called on stage, the repertoire consisting of tunes that each of these musicians had played dozens of times in a variety of settings. (The first three tracks are presented as they appeared on the original 1979 release of Pendulum on Artists House.)
The opening version of Beirach’s “Pendulum” sets things off on an open-ended slant. Based only upon an F# pedal, there are no chord changes and, in fact, a specific mode is not even dictated. The opening solo by Brecker stands as one of the great examples of “pedal point” playing. His statement is unbelievably clear, implying distinct tonal centers, effortlessly flowing in and out of key, expertly using pentatonic scales and patterns, all held together by an innate sense of melodic development. Right off the bat, it’s apparent that what Richie and Al provide behind him strongly encourages this kind of artistic freedom. Beirach follows with an architecturally well-developed and searching yet hard-hitting statement, finally giving way to Liebman, whose tenor picks up the ball and drives the band to even higher heights, with Foster bashing away and Richie aggressively urging everyone on. It’s no wonder that the tune would become the regular opening number for Quest in the years to follow.
Surprisingly, the two versions presented here of Liebman’s “Piccadilly Lilly” are the only recordings of this terrific tune. Dave’s solo on the first version, which is performed sans Brecker, is one of his finest; a perfect balance of melodic development and controlled tension and release. The second take is a bit more reflective and lightly swinging, with Brecker making a wonderfully tasteful solo statement before Liebman takes over for several more free-blowing choruses.
The moody Wayne Shorter blues “Footprints” was of course first introduced on the Miles Davis recording Miles Smiles. Here, the treatment is more aggressive and punchy, with Liebman on soprano soloing first. His effective use of space and the constant interaction between him, Beirach, and Foster make this a particularly outstanding display. Brecker is next with an equally compelling solo, followed by Beirach and a gripping tour de force by Foster.
The most straight-ahead tune on the date, “There Is No Greater Love” is a terrific up-tempo burner, with Brecker’s inside/outside playing and Liebman’s tenor work standing as particular highlights. The rhythm section’s high level of playing, in addition to Beirach’s incredibly complex and inspiring voicings, boosts the energy as well. After trading fours with Foster and a very loose interpretation of the melody, Randy and Dave trade over the vamp, burning up the joint.
Following the melody statement of the swinging Miles Davis blues “Solar,” a boppish Brecker shows off his mastery of the language, with a full thirteen choruses of inside burning hard bop before Beirach drops out and the harmony frees up just a wee bit. Liebman’s tenor follows, with the sublime level of communication between him and the pianist used to full effect, leading to Beirach making his case as well. After Randy and Dave trade fours with Foster, the head and a vamp out, the track winds down at 20+ minutes, with not a second wasted.
The group takes Cole Porter’s classic “Night and Day” on an up tempo journey, with the whole band telling their version of the story followed by Kenny Dorham’s “Blue Bossa”, which is taken as a samba. After strong solos from Liebman and Brecker, Beirach gives a four-minute master class in modern jazz piano followed by a particularly melodic turn from Al Foster.
After a very respectful statement of Monk’s melody “Well You Needn’t,” Brecker expertly plays a game of harmonic hide and seek, weaving out, in, through, and around the changes. Beirach chooses to take a McCoy Tyner–inspired turn, setting up Liebman’s burning tenor.
Liebman’s second original for the date is the midtempo blues “Bonnie’s Blue,” and after Brecker and Beirach each contribute fine solos, it’s time for Liebman’s tenor, driven by Foster’s hard-swinging groove, to shine.
Finally, there’s John Coltrane’s “Impressions,” a chance for the band to burn out on the master’s modal masterpiece, an apt coda to over three hours of mind-blowing small group jazz.
Thirty years ago, when as a young musician in Detroit I first heard the original release of Pendulum, I was in awe of the way that these players were able to sound so tight yet so loose at the same time. I had been listening a lot to fusion, and when it came to straight ahead jazz, it was either the inside hard bop of Clifford Brown or the freewheeling and loosely energetic John Coltrane Quartet that moved me the most. The thought that there was a way to keep one foot in each camp was so very foreign to me. However, the way that Liebman and Co. floated between these two divergent musical poles, exhibiting a rare and inclusive form of small group improvisation, struck me as revolutionary. And it still does.
The most apt metaphor in this case is that of the pendulum of the title tune. There is no feeling of changing gears – it’s more like a constant stream of ideas floating back and forth between inside and outside, as the pendulum swings, with the mind-blowing rhythm section acting as the fulcrum, effortlessly coaxing the soloists from side to side, allowing them to feel safe within the groove yet encouraging risk.
Following Pendulum, Liebman would move on to record a wide variety of projects, including two terrific recordings with his pianoless quintet (featuring John Scofied and Terumasa Hino), a wonderful cutting-edge funk-fusion project featuring Kenny Kirkland, Marcus Miller, Scofield again and Steve Gadd (What It Is), solo saxophone records, and more. But the real “follow-up” to this gig was the first recording by the band Quest in 1981, when Liebman, Beirach, and Foster, along with bassist George Mraz came together to solidify this dynamic small group approach.
In the many years since, although there have been numerous other musical events in each of their lives, they keep coming back to the unique approach that it seems only Liebman and Beirach fully understand, a secret Code that continues to allow them to continually expand the language of jazz in ways that many would think impossible.
David Liebman's Liner Notes
Pendulum-my first live recording and of all things at the hallowed Village Vanguard!! I had worked a lot at the club in the 70’s with Elvin Jones and then my first group, “Lookout Farm” which also included Richie Beirach and Frank Tusa. We knew the place and that special vibe where so many of our heroes had burned it up and left the air full of inspiring ideas and feelings.
It was a transition period for me between bands and returning from living in Frisco for a minute. Richie also was in transition, so we thought it would be nice to play with some brothers just straight ahead, stretching out mostly on standards. Who could be better for that kind of repertoire than Al Foster with whom we were playing with at the time, united by our common love and respect for the 60s groups of Miles and Trane. This weekend planted the seeds for the future band “Quest” which would have a long run in the 80’s, first with Al and then Billy Hart, and after George Mraz and Eddie Gomez, bassist Ron McClure in the group. Joining us at the Vanguard was Randy Brecker, my all time favorite trumpeter and one of my oldest friends, going back to my college days at NYU playing in the Bronx with Larry Coryell and Bob Moses.
Although three tracks were released on the Artist’s House label as “Pendulum” (which became a kind of minor classic among musicians), there was plenty left over which is what comprises this collection. Hearing the music nearly thirty years later, I have to really think about who that saxophone player is!! But for sure, Al and Randy are absolutely at the top of their game and show a side of their playing that contemporary listeners may not be aware of. I’m glad this music is available and of course on the right label. It is a peep into our collective development at an early stage.
Special thanks to Kurt Renker and Walter Quintus for their time and care in editing the tapes; as well to original producer John Snyder for his support during this period of our careers. We dedicate this music to the memory of our long time engineer and good friend, who was with us that weekend in 1978, the late great David Baker.
From The Saratogian-New York
By James Lamperetta
Saxophonist David Liebman performed at the Freihofer's Jazz Festival this past June as part of Saxophone Summit. Upon graduating from NYU in 1968, Liebman settled into the NYC jazzscene. Among those he worked with in the '70s were Miles Davis, Elvin Jones and John McLaughlin.
Seeking to differentiate himself from other tenor saxophonists in the early post-Coltrane era, he also became proficient on the soprano sax.
Generally speaking, the '70s weren't a good time for acoustic jazz. Nevertheless, among the many projects Liebman explored during the decade was the acoustic quintet Pendulum, that also featured pianist Richie Beirach and trumpeter Randy Brecker.
A recently released 3-CD Mosaic Select set presents 11 performances recorded during Pendulum's sole weeklong engagement at the fabled Village Vanguard.
Tackling fare that ranges from Wayne Shorter's "Footprints," Miles' "Solar" and Coltrane's "Impressions" to Cole Porter's "Night and Day," the group's extended readings are muscular, visceral excursions that spotlight a new generation of jazz musicians expounding upon the lessons of the past while plotting a path for the future.
Rest assured that for at least one week in February 1978, acoustic jazz was alive and well.
This title is available exclusively through Mosaic Records. For more information, go to www.mosaicrecords.com.
From All About Jazz
Explosive Post-Bop Jazz By Five Master Musicians
In February 1978, saxophonist Dave Liebman assembled Pendulum, a formidable quintet with trumpeter Randy Brecker, pianist Richie Beirach, bassist Frank Tusa and drummer Al Foster.
The group was assembled for a one-week engagement at the Village Vanguard in New York City. Sadly, its lifespan was that one gig, but fortunately John Snyder of Artists House Records and engineer David Baker were on hand to record the last two nights of the run.
The following year, stunning performances of Beirach's Pendulum, Liebman's Picadilly Lilly and Wayne Shorter's Footprint were issued on an Artists House LP. The label soon fell into inactivity and this critically acclaimed album by five post-bop masters fell off the radar.
Case closed until Liebman recently revisited those tapes and came up with three CDs of explosive music with scorching versions of “Solar", “Well, You Needn't", “Blue Bossa", “Impressions" and more. Fueled by Al Foster's unrelenting fire, Liebman, Brecker and Beirach take chorus after brilliant chorus. This might be the finest example of what an extraordinary improvising artist Randy Becker is; few recordings capture him at this level.
This is hard-hitting modern jazz performed by musicians who grew up on hard bop and informed it with the later innovations of John Coltrane and Miles Davis
From All About Jazz
By John Kelman
These days a collection of artists—no matter how strong—getting together for a largely standards-based date is often treated with some suspicion. With so many jazz recordings being released every month revolving around an increasingly well-heeled (but, nevertheless, still important) repertoire from The Great American Songbook or legacy jazz artists like pianist Thelonious Monk and saxophonists John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter, the cynicism that meets even forward-thinking standards interpreters like pianist Keith Jarrett's trio with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette oftentimes carries such inherent negativity that it becomes questionable whether or not fair assessment is even possible.
But before the neoconservatism of the mid-1980s began to polarize a significant portion of the jazz community—often around one artist, the undeniably talented but outspoken and arguably reductionist Wynton Marsalis—people rarely thought that way. There was a time when musicians could cross stylistic boundaries—or dissolve them entirely—without their motives being questioned. Artists like saxophonist David Liebman could be seen, in the 1970s, in contexts ranging from the nascent world music-meets jazz of Lookout Farm to trumpeter Miles Davis' dense, electric jungle funk, an intimate piano/sax duo with pianist Richie Beirach...and the hard-blowing, heavy swinging post bop of his Pendulum quintet.
Anything was possible, and it was okay to demonstrate one's roots in the tradition without being immediately categorized and placed into a career-defining box. With a quintet also featuring Beirach and longtime New York friends Randy Brecker (trumpet), Frank Tusa (bass) and Al Foster (drums), Liebman went into the legendary Village Vanguard for three nights in February, 1978, exploring the post-Coltrane legacy that has since been a defining marker for his entire career, as well as the flexible post-bop of Davis' mid-1960s quintet with Shorter, pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Tony Williams.
Three tracks from the date were released by the sadly short-lived Artists House label as Pendulum in 1978, and make up the first disc of Mosaic Select 32: Pendulum Live at the Village Vanguard, righting a wrong by finally making this hard-swinging, fiery blowing album available on CD. And that would have been enough. But with nearly two-and-a-half hours of additional material on two more discs, culled by Liebman from his archives and beautifully edited, remixed and mastered by Walter Quintus and Kurt Renker, Live at the Village Vanguard becomes a vivid portrait of a transitional period in Liebman's career, in between the short-lived Ellis-Liebman Band with saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis and the quintet with the young guitarist John Scofield that released Doin' It Again (Timeless, 1980) and If They Only Knew (Timeless, 1981).
It also foreshadows the similarly intentioned Quest, his quartet with Richie Beirach and a number of bassists and drummers that ultimately settled with Ron McClure and Billy Hart, that released a number of fine albums through the 1980s and reformed again in 2005 for a European tour documented on Redemption - Quest Live in Europe (Hatology, 2007).
Liebman's uniquely symbiotic relationship with Beirach was already well-established, and can be heard in numerous live contexts on the revealing Mosaic Select 12: David Liebman & Richie Beirach (Mosaic, 2004). Tusa was a charter member of Lookout Farm, Foster an electric Miles Davis co-alumnus and trumpeter Randy Brecker was, in addition to being one of the most in-demand and stylistically far-reaching trumpeters, a longtime friend. Chemistry was a given, but Beirach's distinctive blend of jazz harmonies with the classical language of more outward-thinking composers who spanned the 19th and 20th centuries—resulting in his being nicknamed “The Code”—alongside Liebman's unfettered expressionism, Brecker's unmistakable ability to blend the “in” with the “out,” Tusa's unshakable support and Foster's vibrant, ears-wide-open interplay allowed the group to start in conventional places but move quickly into unexplored territory.
The classic “There Is No Greater Love” begins reverentially, with Brecker taking the familiar melody and Liebman the bridge, while Beirach introduces a hint of what's to come by diffusing the changes through some abstruse, vertically dense harmonies. But once the head's been played—and only once—and the group opens up for a lengthy solo from Brecker, all bets are off as it rapidly transforms into a still recognizable but vastly altered eighteen minutes of exciting group interplay. Brecker shifts from serpentine, bop-inflected lines to taking the smallest motif and milking it for all it's worth, all the while Beirach, Tusa and Foster creating an unshakable but ever-shifting landscape. A twenty-minute reading of Davis' “Solar” begins similarly, with Foster repeating the high hat-driven pulse before quickly moving to his ride cymbal for another potent solo from Brecker that's followed by one of Liebman's most visceral and reckless tenor solos of the set.
There are few originals amongst the eleven-song set, but Beirach's title track, which opens both the 1978 Artists House album and the Mosaic set, is an example of just how much can be done with a simple pedal point, endless harmonic imagination and a fiery rhythm section. The pianist introduces the melody, with Liebman and Brecker entering in orbital fashion, the saxophonist mirroring Beirach's theme while Brecker circles it with long-tone harmonies, leading to yet another imaginative solo that makes his somewhat secondary position to late brother Michael a mystery. With no shortage of fine trumpeters on the scene today Brecker remains a singular voice, and one whose references are less directly linked to the overriding influence of the iconic Davis.
The same can be said about Liebman and Beirach. Two players who rarely play together these days, but when they do it's as if no time has passed—they have the unique ability to transform any context into a world all their own. While there's no denying the strength of the many great rhythm section players they've worked with, including Tusa and Foster here, it's their particular ability to transport whoever they work with into a musical landscape that sounds like no other that has made this such an important, albeit sometimes mistakenly overlooked, relationship.
Two versions of Liebman's relatively relaxed “Picadilly Lilly” demonstrate how Beirach's subtle leadership drives the entire quintet. At one point on the CD1 version the pianist suddenly bursts into a rhythmic motif that drives everyone, including soloist Liebman, into a brief tension builder that quickly and, with no small sense of relief, releases into a bold swing. This is undeniably a collective, with everyone pushing and pulling, but Beirach remains a defining fundamental.
Rather looking for clever new ways to reinvent or reimagine an often-covered tune like Shorter's “Footprints,” it's simply a contextualizing means to an exploratory end. Liebman, heard here on soprano—the instrument for which he's become best-known, it largely takes a second seat to tenor on this set—takes Coltrane's “sheets of sound” approach and adds space and economy to create, much like the late saxophone giant, a solo of ever-increasing intensity but, unlike Coltrane, one where tension is sometimes created as much by what's not played as by what is.
The keen perceptual acuity of the Liebman/Beirach partnership is at its best here and on the blazing closer, Coltrane's “Impressions,” where Liebman dispenses with the theme so quickly it's almost invisible. Back on tenor, there's so much going on within the first minutes of his solo—whether it's Tusa's brief 16th-note pedal point, Beirach's obliquely placed block chords, Foster's perfectly placed punctuations amidst an energetic groove or Liebman's own raw screams and melodies formed from the seemingly simplest of building blocks—that it's hard to imagine the quintet keeping the fire stoked for over 22 minutes.
But keep the fire stoked they do, making it a fitting end to collection that, in its sheer, unassuming honesty, effervescent spirit of collaboration and liberated sense of adventure proves there's plenty left to say with the standards repertoire. Mosaic Select 32: Pendulum Live at the Village Vanguard may be thirty years old, but it remains one of the most exciting releases of 2008.
Negative Space (Verve Records)
David Liebman, Roberto Tarenzi, Pablo Bendettin, Tony Arco
1. Introducing the band 2. G.I.G. 3. Negative Space 4. Get Me Back to the Apple 5. Poinciana 6. Afro Blue
Hear Sample Tracks
It has been my great pleasure to play with this wonderful trio over the past few years. They are a mature rhythm section that knows how to play as a unit, making it so easy to play with them. Roberto is one of the most talented young pianists I have encountered in the past years with a real understanding of the past; Paolo knows what the function of the bass should be in such a group a approaches his task with understanding and empathy. What can I say about Tony? He knows the history of drums, plays with an incredible intensity and gives his all when he is on the bandstand. Of all the groups I have worked with over the years, I particularly enjoy playing in the tradition with this trio- the essence of real jazz as I learned it, steeped in Coltrane and Miles and all the greats. I love these guys and am so glad we have a representation of our live energy now available on CD.
"G.I.G." was written in the late '90s to commomorate the one hundreth anniversay of George Gershwin's birth and the incredicble collaboration between himself and brother Ira tha yielded so may classic "standard" tunes jazz musicians play over; "Negative Space" refers to the field or area around an object on a canvas or photo, rather than the object itself- quite a concept if you imagine the same thing aurally as well as visually. The harmony combines some blues colors juxtaposed with more complex chords, a combination of old and new. I always loved both Ahmad Jamal's (a big favorite of Roberto's) and of course Sonny Rollins' versions of the classic "Poinciana". On this reharmonization I added a few polychords towards the end of each chorus, but the essence of the melody and rythym still holds true. Of course, "Afro Blue" written by Mongo Santamaria was a mainstay for the incredible soprano saxophone explorations of John Coltrane with the Classic Quartet (Elvin Jones, McCoy Tyner and Jimmy Garrison) which I was able to hear live many times in New York during the 1960s. Enjoy this recording- it truly captures the spirit of jazz.
From All Music Guide
By Michael G. Nastos
On David Liebman's trips to Europe, as with many of his gigs in the U.S., he chooses to play with so-called "pickup" bands. In Italy, one of his favorite and most skilled combos features drummer Tony Arco, bassist Paolo Benedettini, and pianist Roberto Tarenzi, a trio more than capable of knowing Liebman's tendencies, having played with him on numerous occasions overseas. As a result, they play Liebman's original music and standards favored by all four participants, done with no filler, some hefty solos, and a wonderful sense of the teamwork expected from a seasoned ensemble. These performances are culled from club dates in Florence, Bari, and Lamezia Terme, full of the fire and passion that Liebman's playing on tenor or soprano sax is known for. A tribute to George and Ira Gershwin, "G.I.G.," does not refer to any specific show tune, but does quote bop and John Coltrane-type phrases in a short melody -- an easy swinger with Tarenzi's delightful, deft modal piano chords clearly ringing out. There's no derogatory inference to "Negative Space," but instead it's an aural depiction of an aura -- the surrounding space of a solid object, or a person. A circle-the-wagons semi-melody in a delicate bossa beat, it features Liebman's acclaimed soprano sax in spatial and engaged dialog, intensifying in his personalized, familiar, overblown manner. The standards "Poinciana" and "Afro Blue" have been done to death, but the quartet adds to both of them, the former with the contemporary swaying beat that eventually informed hip-hop, well in command and displaying Liebman's prettiest tenor sound, while the latter is a true jam on the famous Mongo Santamaria number popularized by Coltrane, a staple in Liebman's repertoire for decades, done straightforwardly and faithfully on soprano sax with a ton of compassion, aptitude, and a huge bass solo from Benedettini. Arco is an impressive drummer, with all the chops, mastery of rhythm changes, and inventiveness at hand, while Tarenzi is as impressive a European jazz pianist as you might find if you listen closely to his clever voicings and truly original comping behind Liebman. Of course, his own solo excursions as an improviser, especially during "Get Me Back to the Apple," are nothing short of marvelous. More from this quartet, or a recording with just the trio, would be welcome. Frankly, this is a surprisingly progressive offering from the usually conservative Verve Records, hopefully not the only state-of-the-art jazz date they issue in the future. Furthermore, this would be a great group to hear stateside.
From The Guardian
By John Fordham
Friday August 1 2008
Contemporary sax players go misty-eyed at the mention of Dave Liebman. But his music is not for all tastes: Liebman takes no prisoners on departures from the regular dictates of time and harmony, as is pretty apparent here from the atonal tumult he and his partners unleash on the famous John Coltrane vehicle Afro Blue. The former Miles Davis sideman is a saxophone sensation, whose masterclasses attract people from all idioms of jazz, and this live set will be compelling listening for anyone with an open mind about the border territories between harmony-based improv and the possibilities that lie in twisting its structures, or moving outside them altogether. The set has a burning energy, whether you appreciate the technical adventures or not. Two tracks are Liebman's own, hinting at standard songs, but dominated by his bop agility, soprano-sax squeals fired into empty space (recalling Miles Davis's later trumpet methods), and abstract avalanches a la Evan Parker. It's astonishing modern sax virtuosity operating at the outer limits.
From ESSENTIAL "Get Me Back to the Apple"
By Steve Greenlee
Saxophonist David Liebman has flown under the radar for too long. He is known mostly for his brief tenure (1973-74) with Miles Davis. But he has recorded dozens of albums under his own name since that time. I can't pretend to have heard a fraction of Liebman's output, but I can tell you that his new album, "Negative Space," ranks among the most exciting jazz albums of 2008. And, bucking conventional wisdom, it's on a major label. Verve hasn’t exactly been on the cutting edge of jazz over the past several years, but kudos to the label for putting this one out, because it's not going to sell. There's no big name here and no gimmick, just Liebman and a rhythm section from Italy ” pianist Roberto Tarenzi, bassist Paolo Benedettini, and drummer Tony Arco playing music that makes you scoot up to the edge of your seat. They engage in the kind of wild, free-flowing improvisation that recalls (heresy alert) John Coltrane's quartet. These guys trust one another, and they allow one another to expand well beyond melody and harmony. With Liebman leading the way on tenor and soprano, the quartet ruminates over three of his originals before going to town on a pair of well worn numbers, "Poinciana" and "Afro Blue," forging indelible stamps of individuality upon them.
From All About Jazz
By John Kelman
Sometimes there's simply too much good material for a single disc, and then a decision has to be made: release a double-disc set, or two single-discs, spread apart and each with its own complexion? In the case of saxophonist David Liebman's European group with Italians Roberto Tarenzi (piano), Paolo Bendettini (bass) and Tony Arco (drums), choosing the latter not only helps bring more attention over a lenghtier period of time but, despite being culled from the same three dates in late 2005, also focuses on slightly different aspects of the group.
Dream of Nite (Verve, 2007) was largely about original compositions from the group members (with one cover), also weighing in heavily on Liebman's soprano playing. Negative Space is a more equitable mix of Liebman's soprano and tenor, also placing greater emphasis on his writing, with the saxophonist contributing three of its five tunes and a contemporary re-harmonization of the Bernier/Simon classic, "Poinciana." The set-closer, a barnstorming group take of Mongo Santamaria's "Afro Blue"—originally popularized by John Coltrane— demonstrates how indebted Liebman is to the late saxophone icon, while also making clear how he's evolved that debt into something far more personal.
Unsurprisingly, like Dream of Nite, Negative Space sits comfortably in the mainstream, but proves that the tradition has by no means reached a position of complacency. Liebman's "G.I.G." refers to the late, great songwriting team, George and Ira Gershwin, and swings along at an amiable pace, leaving plenty of space for Tarenzi to build an impressive and lengthy solo of motivic invention before Liebman takes over on tenor, combining his own attention to thematic development with the visceral expressionism that's become an ever-present signature. This is timeless music that would have fit comfortably at the 1978 Village Vanguard date which resulted in Liebman's Mosaic Select 32: Pendulum Live at the Village Vanguard (Mosaic, 2008), and yet in the group's expanded harmonies, notably Tarenzi's accompaniment on Liebman's paradoxically ethereal yet grounded title track, there's an unmistakably modern air to the entire set.
Despite there being more soprano saxophonists on the scene today, few have evolved as instantly recognizable a voice as Liebman. In the company of Tarenzi, Benedittini and Arco—who've clearly spent considerable time working together as a trio—Liebman has the same kind of freedom to explore, within some defined parameters, as he has with American groups including the recently reformed Quest, heard on Redemption - Quest Live in Europe (Hatology, 2007). His exciting duet with Arco, following the drummer's well-constructed building-from- nothing solo at the beginning of Liebman's burning "Get Me Back to the Apple," is a perfect confluence of bebop sensibility and stream-of-consciousness free play.
Negative Space is a strong dovetail to Dream of Nite, possessing all the strengths that made the quartet's first release so compelling while adding a few new ones to the mix.