Dave Liebman Group, Ottawa, Canada, April 24, 2008
In performance, his inestimable technique was but a means to improvisational ends, combining fluent chordal strength with a very personal approach to articulating his distinctive single-note lines that, on record, seem unfathomable, but make perfect sense with the luxury of watching him in performance. From Lenny Breau-like harmonics to gritty, Scofield-esque shades of blue, his ability to create soundscapes with his instrument through the use of a small array of effects, is as personal as Frisell's. And, as he's proven on albums ranging from his more mainstream A Second Look (Mel Bay, 2005) to the jamming live album with drummer Ken Serio, Live...In the Moment (Tripping Tree, 2008), there's an ability, similar to John Abercrombie's, to sound distinctly himself, regardless of the context.
The same, of course, can be said for the entire group, based on the two sets that had an Ottawa audience restricted to a small size only because of the capacity limitation of Paradiso, a jazz club that's doing its best to be a home for local musicians and international artists alike. Both sets were packed, giving great hope that the club can continue to expand its horizons to include more shows of this caliber. Critically acclaimed but popularly undervalued, Dave Liebman has a discography that runs the entire gamut from free jazz to through-composed, complex, rock-inflected improvised music. With Juris, Marino and Marcinko he has a flexible working unit that may operate without a safety net but, based on their two Ottawa sets, creates a whole so profoundly satisfying as to lay waste any claim that jazz is in trouble. This was music of the life- affirming variety, capable of energizing and rendering positive even those suffering through the most troubled of times.
T. Bruce Wittet