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Contact: Dave Liebman / John Abercrombie / Marc Copland / Drew Gress / Billy Hart: Five On One

Dan Bilawsky By

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The practice of forming super groups in jazz can be fraught with disaster. Festival promoters often try to draw audiences by lumping musicians together in all-star settings, but a lack of chemistry, familiarity, common ground or interest, often turns these events into yawn-inducing bores. All four of these boundaries, thankfully, don't come into play with Contact—the collaborative quintet responsible for Five On One.

Saxophonist Dave Liebman, guitarist John Abercrombie, pianist Marc Copland, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Billy Hart are connected through various channels. Liebman and Abercrombie go back almost forty years—having worked together in Lookout Farm—and the saxophonist first worked with Hart in the '80s. Abercrombie and Copland go way back together and Gress has been a key element in Copland's trio. The shared history between these five men—and their ability to operate on similar wavelengths while asserting themselves in their own special way—helps to create magic across these nine tracks.

Abercrombie and Liebman control the direction of the music on the album-opening "Sendup." Copland is judicious in choosing how much to play on this one but when he interacts with Liebman's soprano, dwelling in a similar range as the saxophonist, he creates sparks with his conversational genius. "Like It Never Was" starts off easy, with some piano work from Copland, but develops into a scorching display of solidarity from Liebman and Abercrombie. These two kindred spirits add some grit to their sound as they tangle—with Liebman occasionally showing a chameleon-like ability to imitate the guitarist—and come together toward the end of the song.

"Four On One" is a rambunctious ride and Liebman delivers some agitated, scurrying lines that work over and around some similar sentiments from Gress. While the quintet takes this one pretty far out, "Lost Horizon" finds them back on solid ground. Copland delivers a brief introduction here, allowing Liebman and Abercrombie to take control of the piece.

Hart's drum work is a key ingredient on "My Refrain," which features another homerun solo from Liebman, but the drummer takes a backseat on his own "Lullaby For Imke. "You And The Night And The Music" is the only Great American Songbook selection on the album but this reading is anything but standard. After a bit of uncertainty, the melody leisurely comes out of Liebman's horn—with some assists from Abercrombie—and Copland really asserts himself here, following Liebman's solo with a bold spot of his own. Gress gets some solo space, before Hart starts trading with the rest of the crew, and the familiar melody returns—albeit in a more anxious state. Contact proves to be an apt choice for a band name—expressing the ability of these particular musicians to connect with one another and, just as likely, their ability to connect with the modern jazz listening public.

Track Listing: Sendup; Like It Never Was; Childmoon Smile; Four on One; Lost Horizon; Retractable Cell; My Refrain; Lullaby for Imke; You and the Night and the Music.

Personnel: Dave Liebman: tenor and soprano saxophones; John Abercrombie: guitar; Marc Copland: piano; Drew Gress: bass; Billy Hart: drums.

Title: Five on One | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Pirouet Records

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