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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 Tranea 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 eventhe must be one of the most prolific of jazz musiciansbut it is always a welcome one. Liebman has clearly been inspired by Coltranedescribing 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 herebassist Marius Beets and drummer Eric Inekeare both experienced Liebman sidemen, appearing on Lieb Plays Wilder (Daybreak, 2005) and Lieb Plays Weill (Daybreak, 2009).
Coltrane's "Mr. P.C." is the album's centerpiece, in both its track position and performance. It may not technically be Liebman's best performance of the setthat honor probably goes to his beautifully fluid soprano sax on another Coltrane composition, "Village Blues"but it's the one that has the greatest drive, and the most visceral power. The trio really swings, Liebman's tenor playing has some inspirational moments, and Beets' solo is full of inventive, strong playing and fat tones.
The trio swings, too, on its up-tempo, spare but forceful rendition of Miles Davis
' "All Blues." Liebman's soprano is almost aggressive at times, cascades of notes pouring out in a seemingly endless stream, while Ineke is both playful and commanding. Beets plays another fine bass solo, but his sound suffers from the album's one problema tendency for the sound mix to give too much emphasis to Ineke's drums. This is usually to the detriment of Beets, but at times Liebman's saxophone is also rather overwhelmed.
In contrast with much of Liebman's output, the spontaneous, unplanned, performance of Lieb Plays The Blues À La Trane might seem like a minor addition to the saxophonist's ouvre. Indeed, Liebman writes in the sleeve notes: "There is nothing new contained herein..." Maybe there isn't, but spontaneity is at the heart of jazz, and the in-the-moment decisions made by Liebman, Beets and Ineke one night in Belgium have resulted in some terrific music. This is a master class in trio jazz, a worthy tribute to Coltrane and a more than welcome addition to Liebman's extensive discography.
Track Listing: All Blues; Up Against the Wall; Mr. P.C.; Village Blues; Take the Coltrane.
Personnel: David Liebman: soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone; Marius Beets: bass; Eric Ineke: drums.