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CD/LP/Track Review

Dave Liebman / Michael Stephans: Nomads (2009)

By Published: September 2, 2009
Dave Liebman / Michael Stephans: Nomads Veteran saxophonist Dave Liebman is no stranger to experimentation, cutting his teeth playing with Elvin Jones
Elvin Jones
Elvin Jones
1927 - 2004
drums
and then Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
' groundbreaking fusion group in the '70s. Drummer/poet Michael Stephans
Michael Stephans
Michael Stephans
b.1945
drums
has played with everyone from Pharoah Sanders
Pharoah Sanders
Pharoah Sanders
b.1940
saxophone
and John Patitucci
John Patitucci
John Patitucci
b.1959
bass
to classic rock legends David Bowie and The Rolling Stones. On Nomads, the duo takes on many genres and multiple instruments; the result an ambitiously eclectic album, wandering the musical gambit from originals to reharmonized standards and forgotten pieces by jazz greats.

The CD opens with a lone flute followed by the primitive beating of hand drums, evoking the untouched, desolate landscape of the black and white photos that fill the liner notes. Quickly, the duo change feels with a joyous rendition of Keith Jarrett
Keith Jarrett
Keith Jarrett
b.1945
piano
's "The Windup," featuring an extended drum solo and Liebman playing the perky melody on soprano sax.

One of the most satisfying discoveries of Nomads is Liebman's impressive ability as a pianist. He plays the rarely heard Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
piano
piece "Dusk" with a light, confident touch that cuts to the beautiful melancholy lurking below the surface. His solo reharmonization of the Burke-Van Heusen classic "Imagination" provides an amuse bouche of sorts for the main course that is "Shape Shifters," a 14-minute opus that has Liebman moving from slow and moody soprano sax phrases to finely constructed piano reminiscent of Bill Evans
Bill Evans
Bill Evans
1929 - 1980
piano
to a ferocious tenor finale.

Stephans excels not only at holding down the beat and supplying many flourishes, but also at playing a mean alto trombone on the fast-paced "Connect the Dots," throwing in a quick melodic reference to "Luck Be a Lady" while Liebman keeps the beat on the drums. Stephans' wordsmith prowess comes to the foreground in "Mingus Ah Um," a jazz-hop interpretation of a poem he wrote for the great bassist.

Nomads is definitely not for the traditional listener. It's full of twists through seemingly disparate genres, subverting popular thought of what a contemporary jazz album should be. While the transitions between songs are often jarring, the whole is immensely satisfying and electrifying.


Track Listing: Nomads; The Windup; Dusk; Get Happy; Sparrows; Mingus Ah Um; Orange Moon; Tie Those Laces; Down and Gone; Connect the Dots; Honeysuckle Rose; Imagination; Shape Shifters; Ephemeral.

Personnel: Dave Liebman: wood flute, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, piano, drums, spoken word; Michael Stephans: percussion, pocket cornet, piano, drums, alto trombone.

Record Label: ITMP

Style: Fringes of Jazz



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