Dave Liebman Group at Café Paradiso
If there was a hidden gem in the group for these two nights, however, it was Marino, a largely quiet partner whose playing across all four sets, was particularly impressive. As fine as he was last time in town, this time it seemed like he'd lept to a new level, on both instruments. Whether pushing a hard acoustic groove on the Americana-tinged "Folk Song," echoing Juris with an octave-divided electric bass on "Romulan Ale," or playing it entirely free on a track from Liebman's ElementsWater (Arkadia, 1999), he combined astute technicality with unfailing musicality.
A characteristic that, indeed, defined the entire group. There was no shortage of virtuosity on display, but equally, it was never an end, only a means, with Juris building his solos through gradual motivic development, Marcinko working compositionally, Marino accomplishing the near-impossible and making his electric bass sing, and Liebman, subtly directing the group with almost imperceptible hand signals, delivering solo after solo of fire and finesse. If playing free means to be able to do anything one wants, then all four of Liebman's sets at Café Paradisosix hours of improvisational heaven for Ottawa jazz fanswere prime examples of how four people can make spur-of-the-moment choices, individually and collectively, to create music of such passion and commitment that they once again raised the bar for live music in Canada's capital.
John R. Fowler