Richie Beirach & Dave Liebman: Quest for Freedom (2010)
Quest for Freedomfeaturing soprano saxophonist Dave Liebman, pianist Richie Beirach, and the arrangements of Jim McNeely, and performed with the Frankfurt Radio Big Bandcontains some of the most vivid music on record. Almost all of this has to do with three factors: Liebman and Beirach's ingenious compositions and stunning performances; McNeely's intuitive arrangements; and the sublime readings by the members of the entire ensemble. The album is as large as lifepensive and brooding, full of the depth and breadth of musical history and the sheer joy of making harmonious sound that reflects a similarly sheer joy of living. Moreover, whoever picked the charts that were scored and performedsomething that has not been indicatedhas a great propensity for understanding what moves the sound of life itself, as it canters and gallops into the future, encountering many calamities, enjoining new relationships, explaining the abstract, and emerging triumphantly from adversity.
All this from an album that lasts a mere seventy-five minutes and change. The beauty of the album is ensconced in the sweeping creativity of Beirach's pianism, which rushes like an enchanted brook jostling and swerving around the sharply angled geography of Liebman's high and mighty abstractions that shoot like quantum packets of energy from his straight horn. Both their phrases and lines are like nature's green whorls forever entwined around the music that shoots from the earth like great monolithic trunks of trees; music so natural and so earthy that life would seem desolate without its redeeming fire.
Beirach's playing is almost diametrically opposed to Liebman's. The former's sense of the heart of the melodic center pulsates and gives rise to majestic harmonies that spring eternal from the soul of the song. Each time Beirach plays, he seems to emerge organically from the song's center, like a breath of fire that becomes a mythic wind racing hot and searching as it revitalizes the melody and rhythm within. Liebman, on the other hand emerges from the melody to enunciate his solo like myriad harmonic tentacles filling spaces in the sonic landscape as if consuming them and leaving imaginary crystal necklaces in its wake. Liebman is also darting, and probes these spaces as if each were a cave never explored before. His abstract jabs and meandering flourishes always land on the soul of the song decorating it with magnificent new and elastic sounds.
"Pendulum" is a stupendous beginning to the set, played live and almost breathlessly and it also features a mighty tenor saxophone solo from Tony Lakatos. "Jung" is subtle and wildly imaginative. "Vendetta" is svelte and sharp, but it is the breathtaking beauty and tragic sounds of "WTC" that are the most startling on the album. Liebman's music here is tragic and brooding as it explores the metaphysics of death. The pathos of the song is staggering. The drama of this song as well as McNeely's "The Sky is the Limit" makes this one of the year's finest albums.
Track Listing: Pendulum; Jung; Vendetta; Port Ligat; Enfin; The Sky is the Limit.
Personnel: Richie Beirach: piano; Dave Liebman: soprano saxophone, wooden flute; Frankfurt Radio Big Band: Heinz-Dieter Sauerborn: alto saxophone; Oliver Leicht: alto saxophone; Tony Lakatos: tenor saxophone; Julian Arguelles: tenor saxophone; Rainer Heute: baritone saxophone; Buon Watson: trumpet; Thomas Vogel: trumpet; Martin Auer: trumpet; Axel Schlosser: trumpet; Günter Bollmann: trombone; Peter Feil: trombone; Christian Jaksjo: trombone; Manfred HonetSchläger: bass trombone; Peter Reiter: piano; Martin Scales: guitar; Thomas Heidepriem: bass; Paul Höchstädter: drums.