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Live Reviews

Dave Liebman Group at Café Paradiso

By Published: June 2, 2011
The emphasis was on original music—most from Liebman and Juris, but also including Marino's "Anthracite," referencing the coal mining of which Pennsylvanians like Marino and Marcinko were all too familiar, and which became a running joke throughout the first set on Friday ("Clean coal, clean coal," Marcinko quipped as Liebman introduced the song). But Liebman, whose introductions to the tunes provided plenty of insight, also ensured that the tradition which underscores everyone in the group was never forgotten, calling out material from Coleman, Gillespie and Jobim, albeit radically reworked.

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 Elements—Water (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 Paradiso—six hours of improvisational heaven for Ottawa jazz fans—were 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.

Photo Credit
John R. Fowler

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