Dave Liebman and Phil Markowitz are no strangers to the jazz public, particularly as members of the New York scene. Actively performing and recording together for over ten years, their longevity continues a pattern favored by Liebman. Pianist Richie Bierach was Liebman's longtime collaborator in the '70s and '80s. On Manhattan Dialogues,
the duo's indisputable familiarity pays great dividends. All of the necessary elements for creating highly evolved music are here: advanced technical ability, cutting-edge harmonic understanding, spectacular imagination, tremendous interplay, and fine compositions.
From the outset one notices a very powerful emotional commitment to the music. Liebman's dexterity and vehemence, hallmarks of his playing, are in full bloom. Markowitz displays a veritable clinic of piano styles, using the full range of the grand's awesome ability. Five Markowitz compositions, three Liebman tunes and two venerable standards make up the program. The set was recorded live for a student and faculty audience at the Manhattan School of Music, adding to the excitement of the evening.
"Teacher of Our Child, written for a friend of Liebman's daughter, is an expressive composition that features Liebman's customary soprano playing. Markowitz displays sensitivity and drama during his solo, altering chords with flair. Liebman weaves his way through, leaving inconspicuous spaces between clean melodic thoughts. As we have come to expect, his tone is wonderfully rich and distinct.
Markowitz's "Mahoning, a rich ballad originally written as part of a suite for orchestra and piano trio, honors a painting of Franz Kline in the collection of the Whitney Museum. One could certainly describe the piece as jazz, but it would easily fit in a program of serious 21st Century music as well. The deceptively simple melody does not prepare us for what is to come. Liebman builds his tenor solo slowly and deliberately, using the horn's full range, 16th note bursts, and wailing high notes to open the door for Markowitz's brilliant solo. Shades of Hindemith's "Ludis Tonalis are heard as Markowitz displays his advanced harmonic conception and ample chops. Listen to the contrast of power chords in the lower register against high note trills. It is goose bump time when Liebman screams the melody for the final time. What a piece!
"The Night Has 1000 Eyes offers the players an opportunity to display their skills on a well-known standard. Called on the spot, Liebman races through the changes with ease and power. Markowitz follows with an amazing display of rapid melodic playing and old-time stride. The two trade phrases, then give a lesson in evolved communication, playing in and around each other's ideas as the tune winds to completion.
This Zoho release was beautifully engineered by Louis Brown and Matt Blostein. The piano and Liebman's saxophones are captured with all the nuances necessary to translate the weight of this live performance. Words fall short of adequately portraying this duo. The set is quite simply one of the best examples of modern jazz technique, understanding, and improvisation that I have ever heard.
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