When saxophonist, composer, and bandleader Dave Liebman
groks a musical vision, he dreams big and deep. "In the late 1990s," Liebman recalls, "I embarked on a project to musically depict manifestations of the four natural elements. In 1997 I recorded Water
with Pat Metheny
, Billy Hart
and Cecil McBee
; in 2006, I did Air
with the late genius engineer Walter Quintus; fast forward to 2016 for Fire
featuring Kenny Werner
, Jack DeJohnette
, and Dave Holland
; finally, with my present group Expansions, I conclude the series with Earth
Released nearly twenty-five years after the series' first installment, Earth
paints sonic portraits of "The Sahara," "Grand Canyon/Mount Everest" and other majestic natural landmarks, plus one of man's most cunning modern contraptions, the "Concrete Jungle." Expansions sketch and color them from a celestial viewpoint, like you're circling around instead of walking upon them, and intersperse these portraits with improvised instrumental interludes on bass (Tony Marino
), percussion and flute (Alex Ritz
), drums (Ritz), piano (Bobby Avey
), wind synthesizer (Matt Vashilishan) and of course Liebman's soprano sax.
Liebman's orbital portrait of Earth
is abstract, almost clinical, in its observational perspective. It opens and closes with "Earth Theme," with the leader's unaccompanied soprano sax prying the lid up and off of the surrounding electronics until the polyphony of the planet slowly emerges into fuller view.
For a song about molten and tumbling rock, "Volcano/Avalanche" sounds very open and free. Soprano and keyboard sounds coalesce around a loping bass line and drums, then the soprano sax and wind synthesizer erupt into a screaming argument that leaves the bass and drums scrambling in pursuit. "Volcano/Avalanche" connects to "The Sahara" via the "Percussion/Flute Interlude" that Ritz improvises with a natural and native, warm acoustic sound.
"The Sahara" is the longest piece on Earth
and also the composition that makes most effective use of the complete ensemble instead of just pieces of it. Bassist Marino keeps the ground moving like a busy bulldozer while pianist Avey untethers an electric solo that the ensemble watches float up and away. Liebman's soprano returns to lead the final expedition.
Dave Liebman's expansive Expansions: Earth
is powerfully and literally spaced out. "This recording celebrating different aspects of our planet relies heavily on colors emanating from various digital and sound source equipment used by the keyboard and wind synthesizer," he suggests. "For me on the soprano sax, I am the lone acoustic instrument juxtaposing the old and the new (with the drums in the same zone). Melody and harmony play a lesser role in this kind of music...texture rules."
Earth Theme; Bass Interlude; Volcano/Avalanche; Percussion Flute Interlude; The Sahara; Soprano Interlude; Gand Canyon/Mt. Everest; Drum Interlude; Concrete Jungle; Piano Interlude; Dust to Dust; Wind Synth Interlude; Galaxy; Earth Theme.