By Mitchell Seidel
An accomplished performer and educator, saxophonist David Liebman is a man who can talk as passionately about music as he plays it. An avid follower of John Coltrane, he heard the saxophonist live while still a teenager in New York. Liebman went to perform with the likes of Elvin Jones, Miles Davis, Chick Corea and his own group, Lookout Farm, all the while demonstrating that you can perform as part of a group situation without compromising your principals. He currently has no less than four new albums in record stores, the latest being a compilation on Mosaic of sessions he recorded with pianist Richie Beirach. He jumps effortlessly between several performance situations, as a soloist, in a small group, a big band and lately with fellow saxophonists Joe Lovano and Michael Brecker as the Saxophone Summit (affectionately known as the Three Tenors). In the middle of March, he was preparing for yet another trip to Europe, just before the recent terrror bombings in Madrid.
All About Jazz: So, are you all set for your trip?
Dave Liebman: (Laughing) Never set. Takes days to get ready and days to recover. But I've got a routine. This is Germany for three days and Spain for a week.
AAJ: What's the most rewarding part?
DL: You mean the touring aspect? Playing with musicians from different countries, and the communication of that and, of course. They bring me their influences, which are different... and I guess I bring them my experience and whatever musical wisdom I can give them. It's very nice. I do quite a bit of it. I've had some very long and good associations with people in every country there.
AAJ: Do you get a chance to get the music ahead of time to check it out?
DL: It used to be, no. Now, these days they send it, and often with a CD, a programmed verson of it. I look it over, and if it's anything tricky I get to it a little beforehand. But basically, I'll land tomorrow or Sunday morning, rehearse and play that night. I'm pretty fast because I've been doing a lot of it. One good thing about having a reputation is people sort of know what is best suited for a musician. They're not going to give me something that is best suited for a different guy. It's usually very comfortable and really a lot of fun. The first night is always the biggest fun because it's a new night, a new event.
AAJ: What's the biggest drag about doing it?
DL: You don't get continuity, of course, you know, three, four, five, six nights. And it develops, but there's always potential for more... The good thing is the spontanaeity and the newness of it. In my case, I keep a steady band together as much as I can work, because that gives that part of satisfaction... If I did only that (playing with local groups) I wouldn't feel as satisfied because you just don't have time to know everybody's game.
AAJ: You recently forwarded an email to people on your mailing list about an effort to restore John Coltrane's house in Dix Hills, and in that message, you called him the most important influence on your life, aside from your parents. Could you comment on that?