All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review


Steuart Liebig/Minim: Quicksilver

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Finding a meeting place between contemporary chamber composition and improvisation can be a challenge. All too often artists who spend their time in the more rigid confines of the classical world fail as improvisers, because they work most commonly with formal structure, where expression is defined in terms of subtle nuances in dynamics and phrasing. Pure improvisers, on the other hand, are sometimes too liberal, unable to work comfortably within a more rigorous form.

Still, there are an increasing number of artists managing to bridge the gap—and they're coming from both ends of the spectrum. The Kronos Quartet, on its latest disc, Mugam Sayagi, moved towards the centre on pieces that are formal in nature but demand the string quartet to be more overtly improvisational. And groups like Clogs, with a mix of players from both sides of the fence, create a music that blends the best of both worlds.

Contrabassist Steuart Liebig is an artist who has spent considerable time in both universes. Playing rhythm guitar at an early age for Les McCann, Liebig also pursued classical studies on contrabass. Since his first release under his own name in '93, with his trumpet/violin/bass/drums Quartetto Stig, Liebig has chosen to work within the broader scope of improvised music—a cousin of free jazz that, while equally extemporaneous in nature, is more rooted in contemporary classical music than traditional jazz concepts, and can also include more formal through-composition.

With his latest quartet, Minim, Liebig's Quicksilver leans more towards the structured side; still, improvisation is an integral part. The first piece, the 52-minute, 23-part "Mosaic, is based on the concept of the haiku; but rather than centre itself on any particular poems, it used the haiku's structure as a foundation—pieces with 17 measures, or a 17-note theme, for example. Liebig and his rather unusual group—violinist Jeff Gauthier, flautist Ellen Burr, and percussionist/vibraphonist Jeanette Kangas—wind their way through a series of miniatures, ranging from a little over a minute to just shy of four. Breaking up the quartet for solo pieces and various duo and trio combinations, as well as nine pieces for the whole ensemble, Liebig creates a surprising variety of textures with such a small ensemble. Some pieces are strongly rhythmical in nature—like the second part, which revolves a pulsing 5/4 figure—others more subtly so, like the seventh part, where there is form, but time is more elastic.

On "Mosaic, as on the two longer pieces that conclude the disc—"Chrysanthemum and "A Single Rosehip Bursts in Praise —the general ambience is one of dark elegance. The harmonic foundation may be oblique, but there are no sharp edges, and a certain delicacy pervades. The quartet utilizes space as an equal fifth member, and a gentle delivery that makes for a strangely compelling experience.

For a look at how modern improvisation can be seamlessly married to more stringent construction, Quicksilver is an album that adventurously blurs the boundaries, demonstrating that two apparently contrasting views can comfortably coexist.

Track Listing: Mosaic/ Chrysanthemum/ A Single Rosehip Bursts in Praise

Personnel: Ellen Burr- flute, piccolo, alto flute; Jeff Gauthier- violin; Jeanette Kangas- percussion, vibes; Steuart Liebig- C, Eb, contrabass guitar

Title: Quicksilver | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: pfMentum


comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles










Related Articles

Read Ravensburg CD/LP/Track Review
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: March 17, 2018
Read Turbulence CD/LP/Track Review
by Tyran Grillo
Published: March 17, 2018
Read Black Swan CD/LP/Track Review
Black Swan
by Chris Mosey
Published: March 17, 2018
Read Both Sides Of The Sky CD/LP/Track Review
Both Sides Of The Sky
by Sacha O'Grady
Published: March 17, 2018
Read Beethoven – Missa Solemnis CD/LP/Track Review
Beethoven – Missa Solemnis
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: March 17, 2018
Read Miles Davis & John Coltrane - The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 6 CD/LP/Track Review
Miles Davis & John Coltrane - The Final Tour: The...
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: March 16, 2018
Read "Sing Me Some Cry" CD/LP/Track Review Sing Me Some Cry
by John Sharpe
Published: December 6, 2017
Read "Off Beat" CD/LP/Track Review Off Beat
by Mark E. Gallo
Published: August 9, 2017
Read "Unloved" CD/LP/Track Review Unloved
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 19, 2017
Read "Fractured Pop" CD/LP/Track Review Fractured Pop
by Jerome Wilson
Published: April 20, 2017
Read "Music For David Mossman / Live At Vortex London" CD/LP/Track Review Music For David Mossman / Live At Vortex London
by Mark Corroto
Published: March 7, 2018
Read "The Elements" CD/LP/Track Review The Elements
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: August 25, 2017