At the dinner table or in the studio, there are many subtle methods to interject a staunch conversation starter. Or you can always burst into the room with your hair on fire. Veteran soprano saxophonist Dave Liebman, he of many rich and complex lines past, here opted for the latter approach. After bassist and leader Michael Feinberg opened the record with a mood leveling bass intro, Liebman grabbed the attention of his younger generation bandmates in the Feinberg composition "Louisville," named after the birthplace of the great Muhammed Ali. Said bandmates, in addition to Feinberg, tenor saxophonist Noah Preminger, pianist Gary Versace and drummer Ian Froman responded with intelligence and verve.
In all, eight songs, all composed by Feinberg, are consummate vehicles for expressive interplay and open-ended conversation. Feinberg named all the tunes after the hometown of his musical and athletic heroes. He also wrote all these pieces with his personnel in mind. He gets the best out of all of them by creating passages that employ responsive windows. Compositional depth is very much at the core of From Where We Came.
That said, the quintet takes it over the top by continually firing on all cylinders. Feinberg is no doubt the glue. However, we need not get stuck on that point, as his fluency enriches the interaction. Froman is, as well, much more than pocket perfect. He deftly moves the conversation through transitions and is impactful in facilitating his mates. Often heard as a third member broadening the rhythm section, Versace also adds timely and intuitive remarks to the ever-growing conversations.
Liebman and Preminger take this session to a whole other level. Preminger's exuberance, coupled with his learned chops, bring both excitement and insightfulness to the party. Fueled in the moment by Liebman's blaze and intensity, Preminger joyfully rises to the occasion. Liebman lit the spark at the outset and pushed his improvisational bliss forward throughout. He brought his full and expansive arsenal with him...and didn't leave any on the table.
As for the song titles, "Cairo" (Geogia) is the birthplace of legendary Jackie Robinson. "Tryon" (North Carolina) honors Nina Simone. On "Pontiac" (Michigan) you hear Froman taking a run at the peppered swing of Elvin Jones. Every member of the band has a connection to the incomparable drummer. Feinberg once fronted a band called the Elvin Jones Project and Liebman played with Jones in the early 1970s. John Coltrane is dually honored with "Hamlet" (North Carolina). Miles Davis grew up in "East St. Louis" (Missouri), but championed here are trumpeter Russell Gunn and drummer Terreon Gully who also grew up there. Feinberg had the opportunity to see them both on a weekly basis in Atlanta while in high school. "Tokyo" was written for film scorer Ryuichi Sakamoto and with "Nogales" (Arizona) Feinberg pens and plays in memory of Charles Mingus.
A well paired and well-prepared quintet present a dense forest of musical interaction and conversational integrity. They covered a lot of ground, geographically, historically, and musically. A substantial listening and thought provoking experience.
Louisville; Cairo; Tryon; Pontiac; Hamlet; East St. Louis; Tokyo; Nogales.
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