Dave Liebman has released seventy albums since 1972, matching some of the most frequently recorded musicians in jazz, but the soprano saxophonist keeps moving forward. Vienna Dialogues is a duet performance with pianist Bobby Avey. Throughout his career, Liebman has collaborated on several piano-saxophone duet albums, the most recent of which was Manhattan Dialogues (Zoho, 2005) with pianist Phil Markowitz.
An improviser who can play bebop or free jazz flawlessly, Liebman studied with Lenny Tristano and Charles Lloyd. He gained experience working with the jazz-rock group Ten Wheel Drive in 1970, Elvin Jones in the early 1970s, and the electric Miles Davis group during 1973-74. He started his own combo Lookout Farm in 1974. In the 1980s he formed Quest with pianist Richie Beirach (a frequent duet partner). Liebman has recorded heavily for a number of mostly independent jazz labels, including Timeless, Palo Alto, ECM, Soul Note, Candid, Owl and Red.
It was difficult for me to prepare for listening to Liebman largely as an interpreter of classical music, and I was impressed with his thoughts vis a vis this project. As a child pianist, Liebman was required to play pre-20th Century classical music but had little regard for it. He was invited to appear in 2005 with the Koehne String Quartet in Vienna to perform an original composition by Thomas Pernes, an Austrian classical composer. The music was based upon the libretto of Schubert's "Winterreise" song cycle, and Liebman studied the original work in the German lied style. His role was to play soprano sax in a completely tonal setting, delivering lyrical melodies without hardly any improvisation, just interpretation. Afterwards, the saxophonist was left with a sense of gratitude, and the experience motivated him to further explore original "songs" from the Classical and Romantic eras.
Liebman sought the assistance of pianist Bobby Avey, a former resident of the Pocono Mountain area of Pennsylvania where the saxophonist lives (along with Phil Woods and Bob Dorough). Avey had just completed his studies in jazz at SUNY Purchase near New York City. While both musicians chose the selections for this album, it was Avey's task to provide the arrangements for any song that went beyond interpretation and into improvisation. The one-year gestation period utilized the facilities as Purchase College, as well as the assistance of producer George Graham of NPR station WVIA in Pennsylvania, who supplied guidance and editing.
About 40% of this music involves Dave Liebman's improvisation on soprano sax, and I found evidence of this in four of the eight selections. During Chopin's "Etude In E Flat Minor Op.10 No.6" there is a definite reference towards taking classical music outside. Brahms' "Immer Leiser Wird Mein Schlummer Op.105 No.2" also provides evidence of the Liebman solo style. During the course of a Schubert medley, there are specific instances of Liebman fluctuating between Coltrane-inspired lines and more mainstream solos. Finally, Mahler's "Der Einsame Im Herbst" presents another series of Liebman improvisations.
Personnel: Dave Liebman: soprano saxophone; Bobby Avey: piano.