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David Liebman, Jeff Williams: In Duo


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David Liebman, Jeff Williams: In Duo
There is a wonderful hidden treasure trove of jazz recordings which keep being unearthed from old radio broadcasts, forgotten corners of attics or, in this case, boxes of old cassette tapes. Drummer Jeff Williams was delving through some old cassettes made during his extensive career. He found a recording from an improvisational session he made in 1991 with saxophonist Dave Liebman. The recording was made at a session at Bar Room 432, on the West Side of 14th Street in Manhattan.

The two musicians had previously worked together in Liebman's improvisational band, Lookout Farm. Following the break-up of that band in 1976, the two briefly played as a duo, opening for Gary Burton, and can be heard on Liebman's The Last Call (Ego Records, 1979).

Williams has considerable international experience, including extensive work with Lee Konitz. As well as Lookout Farm, he has played with Stan Getz and formed his own bands, notably Coalescence and the trio Circadian Rhythms with Tony Malaby and Michael Formanek. Liebman has had a sparkling career, recording with Miles Davis, McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea and many other key names. Other activities have included writing hundreds of original compositions, producing instructional materials and garnering multiple awards along the way, including an NEA Jazz Master. He is one of the most significant and prolific saxophonists of the last fifty years.

This recording, In Duo, had no rehearsal, no set list; they just carried on from the last time they had played together, spontaneously improvising and exploring in front of an amenable and open-minded audience. In the best tradition of cassette recording, the two tracks are called "Side A" and "Side B." Each lasts around 20 minutes. The recording has been remastered by sound engineer, Alex Bonney. Despite the provenance, there is no "bootleg" feel about the recording, just a warm mood, a live atmosphere and a change from studio polish.

The first set starts with fast soprano saxophone phrases as Williams drives in to a groove. They become more impassioned, the speed increases, the saxophone wails and slurs with darting runs, eventually leading to an explosive barrage of drums before the track moves into a slower ballad-like section with the saxophone more plaintive and melodic.

Side B is less frenetic. Liebman's saxophone plays blues-tinged phrases, Williams subtly develops a soulful groove before forcefully driving the pace forward. Liebman's playing becomes incendiary and intense, pushing his sax to extremes, before they subside in the last few minutes.

This is raw, unfiltered music, created in the moment, involving a degree of chance. Liebman's mastery of the soprano saxophone is indisputable, moving from light melody to daring intensity. Williams is the perfect foil, knowing how to respond and when to match that intensity. An intoxicating experience for admirers of free-jazz. Let us hope many more of these forgotten recordings keep coming to light.

Track Listing

Side A; Side B.


Album information

Title: In Duo | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Whirlwind Recordings

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