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As the motivating force behind the establishment in 1989 of the International Association of Schools of Jazz and now its artistic director, it is appropriate that soprano saxophonist David Liebman should have been one of two guest soloists with the Big Band of the Hochschule für Musik Köln at the IASJ’s annual Gala Concert in April 1998 at the Music Academy in Cologne, Germany. (For an overview of how the IASJ came to be formed, see my January column at this site.) The other invited guest in a program fashioned entirely of original compositions by IASJ members is Liebman’s friend and fellow saxophone master Michael Brecker. Brecker’s hard–edged, consistently innovative tenor is showcased (with flugel Claus Thormählen) on Stefaan Debevere’s “Minor Beauty” and (with pianist Jürgen Friedrich) on Friedrich’s “Voyage Out,” and he and Liebman are heard together on Graham Collier’s “From 9 to Infinity,” Mamelo Gaitanopoulis’ “Song of Thirds” and (with drummer Hendrik Smock) on Ed Sarath’s “Rites of Passage.” While I can’t honestly say that everything on the menu agrees with my admittedly parochial tastes, much of it does — with “Minor Beauty” and “Song of Thirds” especially flavorsome. As for Brecker and Liebman, neither of them earned his impressive reputation by playing poorly, and neither one disappoints on this occasion either. Liebman scurries like a fast–moving “Trane” on “Song of Thirds,” whose composer, Gaitanopoulis, is from the Rimon School in Ramat Hasharon, Israel. Brecker follows with some probing statements of his own, and he and Liebman lend an aura of unremitting passion to the closing “Rites of Passage,” whose playing time is more than twenty–one minutes. Brecker uncloaks his straight–ahead persona on “Minor Beauty” whose composer, Debevere, is from Belgium’s Antwerp Conservatory. The IASJ is a grand idea, this is a marvelous concert, and our wish is that the multinational organization will play an ever–widening and important role in Jazz education all over the world for many years to come.
Track listing: Minor Beauty; Voyage Out; From 9 to Infinity; Song of Thirds; Rites of Passage (64:04).
Bill Dobbins, conductor; featured soloists Michael Brecker, tenor saxophone, and David Liebman, soprano saxophone; Sebastian Strempel, Christian Winninghoff, Ralf Hess, Claus Thorm