Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Dave Liebman Delivers an Adrenalizing, Unexpected Trio Album

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.

On tenor, Liebman wastes no time establishing a formidable attack, one rapidfire spiral after another on Miles Davis’ All Blues, following a late 50s Trane style, exploratory yet managing not to meander. The rhythm section quickly falls into place, Ineke with a loose, funky shuffle against Beets’ lean, fluid pulse that turns wintry and somewhat wry when it comes time for his solo toward the end. Throughout the album, they hold their places, leaving centerstage to Liebman aside from the occasional solo spot. Trane’s Up Against the Wall shuffles steadily along with a genial New Orleans swing: it’s the most straight-up number here. Mr. P.C. features a long, bright, sprightly bass solo (too low in the mix, as is the case all night, the one drawback with this album), Ineke taking a long, playful 3-on-2 solo. Liebman prowls around the minor blues scale or its edges, turning up the heat with the glissandos, but with restraint. A long, methodically crescendoing Village Blues – the one tune here with any real handoffs between the players – sees Liebman wrapping up his final soprano sax salvo unexpectedly – “OK, I’ve made my point, that’s all I’ve got to to say.” Ellington’s Take the Coltrane, tongue-in-cheek in its original version and just as jaunty here, opens with a bass solo and ends the set on an upbeat note. The album is best experienced in its entirety: as an unintended suite, it works strikingly well. It’s a must-own for Liebman fans, and Trane fans ought to enjoy this just as much, a worthwhile homage from one of the greats of this era to one from another. Liebman has an auspicious stand coming up at Birdland on February 22-26 with with his famous 80s quartet including pianist Richie Beirach, bassist Ron McClure and drummer Billy Hart.

January 20, 2011 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Dave Liebman Big Band’s New Album Is Gripping As Always

As Always, the new album by the Dave Liebman Big Band is characteristically rich and diverse, emphasizing lively interplay and striking, upbeat charts played by a first-class ensemble under the direction of saxophonist Gunnar Mossblad. Recorded live in concert in 2005 and 2007 in Colorado and Ohio, it features as many as nineteen players including longtime Liebman associates Vic Juris on guitar, Tony Marino on bass, Marko Marcinko on drums, Jim Ridl on keys and Scott Reeves (who also arranged a couple of the numbers here) on trombone and alto flugelhorn. Liebman’s soprano sax – and occasional flute – sail brightly over the dynamic arrangements. As much as this is a big band album, parts of it are remarkably quiet, which only enhances the intensity when they’re all going full tilt.

It opens with the aptly titled A Bright Piece, soprano sax swirls over big swells, to a funky groove with latin-tinged piano. This group has a sense of humor, a quality that rears its head frequently throughout this set, in this case the use of the bass clarinet soberly introducing a new variation after a bubbly Liebman solo. The title track is intimate despite the frequently blazing charts, with a pensively cinematic buildup to a lyrical ballad dynamics. Its more reflective sections between the big crescendos feature some particularly vivid interplay between Liebman and the piano or guitar.

Anubis is a showcase for the rich, chromatic intensity that Liebman has always excelled at, with some tremendoulsy interesting, subtly shapeshifting work by Marcinko behind the kit, moving almost imperceptibly from a clatter to a rumble. Liebman’s snakecharmer flute intro gets a slinky response from Jeff Nelson’s bass trombone, the band offering tinges of flamenco, funk and finally a baritone sax-driven groove where Liebman, back on soprano, goes flying over it. New Breed, an early 70s tune Liebman did with the Elvin Jones Group is genial, aggressive, cinematic postbop with cameos from just about everybody in the band and plenty of hard-driving, gritty Liebman work that feeds the flames for the rest of the crew to fan joyously.

Inspired by a Monet painting, Philippe Under the Green Bridge is as robust as a tone poem can get, another vivid example of Liebman’s wary chromatics with Charles Pillow on oboe adding an understatedly insistent, apprehensive edge before the fireworks begin and Liebman takes over. The album ends with Turn It Around, a tricky exercise in rhythmic interplay with a wry, twangy Juris solo. Liebman is currently on a five-day stand through 9/11 at Birdland at 8:30 and 11 PM with Steve Kuhn (piano), Steve Swallow (bass) and Billy Drummond (drums). Then he’s at the Blue Note on 9/13; playing the cd release show for his new small-combo cd on 9/17 at 55 Bar, and then the big cd release show for this one with the big band at Iridium on 10/6. Lots of chances to see a guy whose vitality and relevance has never dimmed over the course of a forty-year career.

September 7, 2010 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bobby Avey Makes an Auspicious Debut

Pianist Bobby Avey’s debut album A New Face instantly elevates him into the ranks of formidable 21st century players like Vijay Iyer, Gerald Clayton, and Marc Cary. Intense, forceful and fearless, Avey has a powerful lefthand like Kenny Barron, a fondness for ominous modal excursions and a vivid sense of melody that hovers between the noir, the Romantics and Olivier Messiaen at his most otherworldly. Along with the other members of his trio, bassist Thomson Kneeland and drummer Jordan Pearlson, this album features the always estimable Dave Liebman guesting on soprano and tenor sax on four tracks. The chemistry between players matches the quality of the compositions: if there’s been a better jazz debut album this year, we haven’t heard it.

The opening track, Late November begins with a machine-gun circular motif that Avey eventually leaves to the bass and drums and hovers over with a noirish glimmer – and then takes it down to a minefield of modal incisions on the third verse. Much of this album has a bracing third-stream feel and this is a prime example. Meanwhile, throughout most of the song, Pearlson and Kneeland lock in and hammer with Avey, something they do with considerable relish throughout the album. The second cut, In Retreat is a potently evocative, bitter, brooding ballad, Liebman adding understated grey tones over Avey’s richly melodic crescendos, agitated but completely in control. Kneeland takes it out into the depths with a woundedly syncopated solo. Delusion is a study in understated chromatics and rhythmic shifts, another Kneeland solo early on its quiet highlight. The title track kicks off with a tense, macabre-tinged bass solo which Avey expands eerily – it’s a Sam Fuller film played out in the churchyard at Saint-Sulpice, Liebman playing the role of semi-friendly ghost.

After the stalker intro of Less is Less Than Half, the drums prowl around Avey’s minimalism, building to a crashing McCoy Tyner style lefthand hook that winds up in a hammering, fiery, percussive blaze. By contrast, Influence, a duo piece for piano and tenor, shifts between a golden age late 50s vibe and an uneasily unwinding, ripplingly horizontal piano soundscape. The final cuts here reach genuinely majestic heights. Insight unfolds with Avey hammering on an insistent staccato pedal note, expands to a chromatic vamp that he roams around, eventually a marvelously terse chromatic bass solo, and then it all comes together, glimmering and intense. Likewise, Time Unfolding finally throws restraint to the wind after giving Liebman the chance to rove expansively and then finally plunge into the rhythm section’s staccato syncopation before Avey and then Pearlson take it all the way up. Avey’s ceiling is pretty much as high as he want to go with it. Hope you like traveling, dude.

August 10, 2010 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment