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Dave Liebman

By Published: April 19, 2004
DL: It really saved me...It goes back to a period in my life in the early '80s when I was very frustrated with the music scene, and some personal things happened to me and all this together made me feel that I should be trying to do something that would be of more benefit to the world than just getting up and playing a horn. By then I had done everything anyway. I looked into going into law school and got into a couple of schools, the Peace Corps and all that stuff. But what brought me out was teaching. I began to teach more. When I saw you could really have an effect on a one-at-a-time basis...where you could put someone in a position to realize the things that you had realized. Teaching for me is, the reward is...if one person "gets it", I've served as a sort of missionary. On a very practical level, besides helping me make a really make associations with young people, which is great. You see what's going on. You stay out of your own age group. And, from a work standpoint, you end up producing your students, or playing on their records or playing on their gigs. It goes from master-apprentice to contemporary, to peer. I wouldn't be as good a musician as I am if I hadn't had my students challenge me with the kind of music they're writing, because they certainly do things different than I do.

AAJ: Anyone in your current group come up through the student ranks?

DL: Marko (Marcinko), the drummer. He was not a student of mine, but he went through the University of Miami. He played with Maynard (Ferguson) for a few years, (and) plays in rock bands. He plays a million instruments. He's typical in the sense that the student...comes through the schools now at the top level. He's completely educated. They can write for big band, they can write for string quartet. They play piano, they play another instrument of their choice and they're completely adept at five different styles of playing. And he is that.

AAJ: Was there a transition period for him, going from all that stuff you mentioned to your style?

DL: He still maintains a rock band (in the Scranton, PA. area), a very good rock band. A straight-ahead rock and roll band that he's trying to get on the map...It was a big shift for him, but his talent's extraordinary. He is a very good drummer. That's number one. I'm able to teach (him) by playing and by verbal directions. Adam Nussbaum, when he was with me in the late '70s, it was his first real major gig with a more experienced musician, and it's the same with him. You were able to say, "this is what you should be looking for, this is what you should be doing" and after the gigs we would talk, and I'm still on his case. We have a friendly, antagonistic relationship, which I love to have with a younger's the Art Blakey thing, that's where we got it from - somebody pointing it out or at least doing it so you can observe it.

AAJ: You studied with (tenor saxophonist) Charles Lloyd?

DL: I kind of hung/studied with him for an intense year. Every Sunday. He lived across from (where the Blue Note Club is) on West Fourth Street. I went up to him - coincidentally this week my daughter did "Fiddler on the Roof" and I re-listened to Cannonball (Adderley) doing "Fiddler" (with Lloyd) - it was when they were doing that music that I went up to Charles at the Half Note because Bob Moses, who was (my) first real friend who was aware of the scene...when I asked, "Who plays the most like Trane?", said "Charles Lloyd." I went to hear him, and sure enough, he sounded a lot like old 'Trane.

It was, I guess, '63 or '64. I went up to him and I said, "Do you teach?" He said, "No, but you can come by tomorrow." We established a relationship, where I...was kind of his gofer, in a way. Let's put it this way: he didn't teach the way I teach. He didn't give "Do this, do that, here are some facts." He just sat, we hung. He would talk about the situation. It was more of a hanging relationship than him saying "Now take this home and do this." But there were things here and there, and I would play for him. But the main thing I got out of him was number one, being close to a real live jazz musician who was happening at the time, seeing him on a personal level, and number two, because I was close with him and around a lot, hearing him a lot, he had great rhythm sections in those days. I mean (Pete) LaRocca, Tony Williams and Ron Carter, Herbie (Hancock). So I'd be there every night, hearing him, and hearing the guys. It was like an insider's view of the scene, which in those days, there was no other way to get it. There was no school situation. You had to do it by either being in a band or being around a band.

AAJ: In addition to performing with the quartet at Birdland in early April and teaching, you also have three new albums out in the stores: solo ( Colors, hatOLOGY), small group ( Conversation, Sunnyside) and big band ( Beyond the Line, Omnitone).

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