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Dave Liebman

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AAJ: How would you contrast your work as a creative "mainstream" artist with your work playing outside music?

DL: Well, I don't look at categories like that. I like to delve in and out of a lot of things, rhythmically and harmonically. I like the line between the in and the out and the up and the down. I just like yin and yang stuff, you know, floating between the two. I thought Coltrane was great at that. I thought Alvin Berg was great at that. I thought Ravelle was great at that, Picasso. I like art that goes between very abstract and very inside and then keeps the listener or the person who is the receiver, I think, curious. I like to see stuff that makes me think, "What are they going to do next?"

AAJ: What kinds of things do you do to stay creative?

DL: I have a glass of wine.... (Laughter) Well, to be serious, it's not easy as you get older, for a few reasons. One is life itself. Another thing is that, once you know a lot, it's hard to find holes to find more. But your job is to find holes within the microcosm. And when you live long - hopefully I will live long - you have to learn how to get a lot out of a little. When you are younger it's easier, but when you are older it's much more difficult to keep creative and keep honest and not go to what is easier and what is successful, whatever that means, for your act, you know, what people like. I know what people like about me and I can go there in a minute and I will go there, but I also have to remember that I have to go where I don't know. That's a thing you play with everyday. In your life it gets harder because life is complicated and keeping alive as an artist these days is so hard that to keep a creative outlook and not get stuck in the mundane is a challenge in itself. I'm not unusual in that we all have that problem, but to keep it going is a difficult thing. You know, I like to read with cats. When you are with people, you just hope that you get energy from people. The one good thing about being who you are is that you do meet some interesting people and they always give you something, and that's what we do.

AAJ: In Seattle we have a strong jazz community.

DL: I know that.

AAJ: But free jazz, which largely has been ignored by the press, is getting a lot more exposure now and a lot more of us are playing free jazz. Do you ever work with any of the less - to use that term again - "mainstream" creative musicians, any gigs, projects, or anything like that?

DL: I like tapping into that. But, you know, free jazz for me begins in 1964 or '65. It's not something different, it's just another way to play. It's like, I could play fusion or play a standard; it's just another aspect of playing. It's not a movement, it's not a cause. I enjoy doing that and especially, of course, in Europe there is a lot more of that, but I like also playing the blues too. I mean, it's all music. Once you are equipped musically, which takes 20 or 30 years, you get to a point where you don't see categories. You see, like, "Oh, here's this musical situation. Here's these musicians. Here is this particular setting." And you will do what you know and what you like to do. But you just shift gears because you can, musically. But that takes 20 or 30 years to become adept at switching among several different styles. In my case, because I grew up in an eclectic era, I have three or four things I like to do, and those are the things I can do. I don't do six or seven, but I do three or four and I enjoy it.

I think putting a name on it is something you do when you are younger and you need to do that to identify yourself. But, in the end, we are going to play free the way we will tonight on a G7 chord. I'll go back one story, I'll tell you. When I had this discussion with Pete La Roca, Chick Corea, and Dave Holland on 69th Street and Broadway on a summer night, and Chick and Dave were doing Circle then with Barry Altschul and Anthony Braxton and Pete. It was Pete's band and this was my first experience. And they were kind of, in a friendly way, challenging him to - "Why can't we play free?" This is 1969, you understand, so "free" was new. And Pete says, "I play free in 4/4. I don't know what you're talking about. I'm always free." And in his case, it's very true (laughs). In his case, he could play free in 4/4. And I'll tell you something, I always think about that story and I think about it in a way like, that was kind of a casual answer. But you know what? He was exactly right. Because the truth is, what we're listening to right now with Larry (He is referring to Unity by Larry Young playing in the background. This album features Woody Shaw playing trumpet, Joe Henderson playing tenor saxophone, Larry Young playing organ, and Elvin Jones playing drums.), you don't get freer that the way Joe is playing on that. When was that "Unity," '68? You don't get freer than that playing the blues in 1968 with Larry and Jones. So, to me "free" means a state of mind, and I never think "free" is "free of." Free from - it's not "free" it's "free from." I don't have restrictions. I do what I have to do, or we do what we have to do. Political is one thing, musical is another.


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