Dave Liebman Group: Half Moon Bay, California, September 26, 2010

Bill Leikam By

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Dave Liebman Group
Douglas Beach House
Half Moon Bay, California, USA
September 26, 2010

On Sunday, September 26, 2010, the award-winning Dave Liebman Group—Liebman on soprano sax and a small wooden flut;, Vic Juris on acoustic and electric guitar; Tony Marino on electric bass; and Marko Marcinko on drums and percussion—strode on stage, ready to take the Douglas Beach House (aka Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society) audience on an edgy journey through ten unique arrangements. The last time that Liebman had played the Bach was in the late 1990s, but from then to the present, much had changed. The nearly sold-out gathering of jazz lovers was in for a thrill.

The late afternoon began with "Night in Tunisia," arranged with a tinge of the blues. Liebman's soprano sax set the melody that was soon picked up by Juris, on electric guitar. The two bantered back and forth with a stunning precision that only comes when musicians have played together for many years. Once this warm-up concluded, Liebman reached a bit further toward the fringes of free jazz, but he did not cross the line into full blown improv. Liebman and Marcinko playfully played off of one another until Liebman's soprano sax cried out with pitched squeals. Meanwhile, Juris and Marino held down the bottom, but no sooner had this pattern been established than they flipped places, with Juris and Marino taking the lead while Liebman and Marcinko took a backseat.

The group's fluidity and ability to shift and move through segues almost unnoticed kept everyone on their toes—wanting more, and curious as to where this amazing quartet was taking each piece. One moment their music came on strong and with an edge, and the next they took it down into something mellow and delicate. In Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman," Liebman played a small wooden flute, similar to a recorder. This piece had a mysterious, haunting edge to it, and yet it was simple—with sound effects, percussive instruments like shakers and bells, and the use of mallets on the drums. As the piece approached its crescendo, Marcinko used mallets on both toms, building the dynamics further and further, increasing the force until it reached its climax.

In Juris' "Romulan Ale," the depth and the breadth of the Dave Liebman Group came through with a finesse that only accomplished musicians can hope to achieve. Marcinko's drum solo seemingly merged with Juris's effects-laden guitar. Off and on during the concert, Marcinko played percussion and used his trap set—especially his cymbals—in rather unique ways. Here, he had a pair of ribbed drum sticks that he rubbed together on his snare, and at times it sounded as though he was doing a drum roll. Out of that came the full quartet, as it broke out over the top into a free jazz run, with Liebman coming in under it, only to come ripping out to take the top with his powerful soprano.

Some free jazz musicians go so far out on the edge that they lose their listeners, sacrificing that essential emotional connection. It is a tribute to the Dave Liebman Group that it can hit those edgy places and develop them, but never lose that connection with its audience. It is rare, indeed, and difficult to do; a testimony to the brilliance of all four of these highly accomplished musicians.

It was good to have Liebman return with a fresh, new sound that took everyone on a playful and emotionally moving jazz journey. As the sun set over the Pacific Ocean just outside, the concert came to a close but with the audience wanting more. Those who frequent the Douglas Beach House eagerly await the return of the Dave Liebman Group. If you happen to hear that this group of playing at a nearby venue, you will be doing yourself a favor to hear this award-winning quartet.

Photo Credit

Jean Rader


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