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Live Reviews

Dave Liebman Group at Café Paradiso

By Published: June 2, 2011
Liebman's two nights at Paradiso suggested that, while the freer approach is still going on, it was already showing signs of morphing into whatever direction comes next. Marino split his time about 50/50 between electric and acoustic basses, while Liebman did the same, spending about as much time with his tenor saxophone as he did soprano. And while the group did, indeed, rock out pretty hard—with Marcinko driving the group with a combination of incendiary pulses and an unfettered expressionism that was the perfect foil for Liebman, who's long held a reputation for similar extroversion—there were plenty of calmer moments, too, in particular with Antonio Carlos Jobim
Antonio Carlos Jobim
Antonio Carlos Jobim
1927 - 1994
piano
's "Zingaro," culled from New Vista (Arkadia, 1997), in Friday night's first set, where Juris switched to nylon-string acoustic guitar and the group delivered an early demonstration of its ability to play with both reverence and a healthy irreverence for the tradition, as Marino and Marcinko flexed liberally with the tempo. Still, as unfailingly beautiful as the tune was—with Liebman's warm soprano lyrically weaving through the changes—it was Juris who delivered an early high point with a solo that, just when it seemed he'd shown everything he had, came out with even more, building to a peak, but then pulling back with such a visceral sense of tension and release that the audience's collective relief was palpable.

Juris—whose Omega is the Alpha (Steeplechase, 2010) was released late in the year, but still made it into at least one 2010 Best of List—was a marvel throughout the two evenings, playing with the kind of effortless invention and open ears that made him an ideal accompanist, whether it was strumming fervently on his own "Folk Song," adding electronic textures to Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
b.1930
sax, alto
's "Lonely Woman," from the group's award-winning Turnaround (Jazzwerkstatt, 2010), or driving a riff home on his "Romulan Ale," first heard on the Liebman Group's In a Mellow Tone (ZOHO, 2004), but revisited recently on Omega. An endlessly inventive soloist, with an effortless mastery of his instrument few can match—whether executing mind-boggling intervallic leaps or creating cascading harmonics—Juris, like the rest of the group, truly manages to approach the material differently each and every time, something Ottawa fans who attended both evenings got to experience. While the four sets by no means repeated themselves, there was a handful of tunes Liebman called on both nights, including Juris' "Folk Song," the title track to Liebman's Dream of Nite (Verve, 2007), and the saxophonist's "Smokin' at the Café," an altered blues that was a great way to loosen the group up at the start of each night.

Liebman was, as ever, an equally endless fountain of ideas, and with all four sets running long—each clocking in around 90-minute mark (clearly this group came to play)—and with only six tunes per set, there was plenty of opportunity for extended soloing, though the group always managed to avoid any semblance of excess. Instead, the interplay amongst the members was so compelling, and the fun they were having so obvious and infectious, that the sets seemed to pass by in an instant. And while Liebman was relentlessly impressive on the more energetic pieces—combining remarkable tonal and textural control with the kind of ideaphoric abandon that seemed near-reckless but, as his solos developed with remarkable focus, clearly was not—he also proved himself a master of deeper lyricism on his balladic "Breath," from his duo record with Australian pianist Mike Nock
Mike Nock
Mike Nock
b.1940
piano
, Duologue (Birdland, 2007).

Marcinko's a hard-working drummer who deserves far greater recognition. His ability to mirror Liebman or Juris rapid-fire note for rapid-fire note was matched by his locking, in-the-pocket, with Marino on tracks like the Spanish-tinged "Mesa D'espana," from Liebman's tribute to former employer, trumpeter Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
, Back On the Corner (Tone Center, 2007). He soloed rarely, and while those occasions were as exciting and dynamic as would be expected, it was his ensemble work that, ultimately, was more impressive. Like the rest of his band mates, he worked from structural roadmaps, but with a free and unhindered approach that made even the most familiar material fresh, like the group's cover of Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
1917 - 1993
trumpet
's "Night in Tunisia"—reharmonized and delivered with shifting bars of ten and four. And, like the rest of his band mates, Marcinko may have turned the heat and volume up at times, but he was equally capable of turning on a dime, dynamically, and bringing the music down to a near-whisper.


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