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Steuart Liebig: Quicksilver

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Bassist/composer Steuart Liebig has been one of LA's most prolific jazz jugglers for years now. At any given time, he may have half a dozen bands in the air, a couple behind his back, and a few improvisational relationships on the side. Over the last decade, he's put out recordings on Nine Winds, Cryptogramophone, Cadence Jazz, and pfMentum, but his release schedule doesn't begin to keep up with his visitations with the muse.

In stark contrast to the bluesy bite of the Mentones' Locustland , Liebig's previous pfMentum outing, Minim's debut offers an almost chamber jazz approach to the listener. Instead of dropping improvisational sections into quasi-classical forms however, Liebig has created his own form in the opening number, "Mosaic," which clocks in at 51:38, and is "made up of 23 miniatures based on haiku." You can hear a variety of classical styles at work—several bars of counterpoint here, a minimalist pulse over there—but no one approach dominates and still the piece coheres.

More important than the specific structure, however, is the skill with which Liebig writes for his band members' strengths. That's not surprising where violinist Jeff Gauthier is concerned, since they've been collaborating for a long time, but flautist Ellen Burr and drummer/percussionist Jeanette Kangas (FKA Jeanette Wrate) come off equally well. Burr's remarkable range, from the purest tones to rampant Rahsaanisms, spiced with ethnic rhythms and tonal shadings, provide continuity, even when she's asked to blow her flutes all over the map. Kangas propels a maximum of momentum with a minimum of crash and bash. "Mosaic" isn't the only composition on the album. "Chrysanthemum" conveys a slowly moving landscape, sometimes arid, sometimes lush. "A Single Rosehip Bursts In Praise" is a dance piece where everyone solos over a percussive celebration that could've been borrowed from the rituals of Bali.

If much new music tries to be considered out of the box, this is new chamber music that is definitely out of the chamber.


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


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