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Quest: Re-Dial: Live in Hamburg

John Kelman By

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The new millennium seems to be a time when groups are reuniting, sometimes to even greater acclaim than they achieved the first time around. It's also a time when aging jazz musicians are lighting a fire under their own careers, ramping up their output and broadening their reach. Saxophonist Dave Liebman's activity in the past year has been almost beyond belief, closing in on a dozen as a leader and co-leader, as well as a couple of important reissues. One significant re-release is Searching for the Next Sound of Be-Bop (Storyville, 2010), bringing three important albums back into print, including the first two discs by Quest—once it arrived at a consistent lineup with its second release, Quest II (Storyville, 1986)—and Double Edge (Storyville, 1985), a tremendous duo record from Liebman and Quest-mate/pianist Richie Beirach, which further solidifies the language and mitochondrial connection these two have shared, dating back to the 1970s and other groups, including Lookout Farm and Pendulum.

The often-recorded Beirach composition that named Pendulum—recently collected on the exhilarating Pendulum Live at the Village Vanguard (Mosaic, 2008)—makes an appearance on Quest's Re-Dial: Live in Hamburg, recorded at two shows in the fall of 2007, and only goes to show how far the language shared by Liebman, Beirach, bassist Ron McClure and drummer Billy Hart has evolved. Its modal core and recognizable melody are mere starting points for a version far more fluid and free than ever before, as Hart and McClure create constantly shifting, tumultuous waves of color, even as they somehow manage to retain its swinging undercurrent. There may be delineated solos—first Liebman, followed by Beirach, McClure and Hart—but the level of interaction is so deep—with Beirach pushing and pulling Liebman during his tenor solo—that the saxophonist pauses more than once, feeling where the rest of the group is taking him. Everything is less than obvious, and always more than it seems.

Another Beirach tune, the title track to his solo outing Continuum (East Wind, 1983), is a dark-hued tone poem, while his closing "Hermitage," first heard on his duo record with violinist Gregor Huebner, Duality (Niveau, 2007), is amongst Quest's most flat-out beautiful tunes, Liebman's soaring soprano wrapping around Beirach's dense voicings with surprising gentility.

Liebman contributes "Standoff," a brooding cousin to "Continuum" whose moody lyricism sharply contrasts the title track which follows, where the saxophonist's opening soprano solo runs the gamut from oblique post-bop to screeching multiphonics, leading to the gradual emergence of an incendiary pulse that drives one of Beirach's most extreme solos of the set. "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn" is a dark-hued tone poem, setting the mood for John Coltrane's "Brazilla," opening with a lengthy drum solo from which a high energy, high density and viscerally charged collective storm emerges, showing just how far the late saxophone giant's vision has come, since his death over forty years ago.

Too late for consideration in 2010's Best Of list, Quest's DNA-level telepathy makes the unfettered fire and sublime beauty of Re-Dial: Live in Hamburg an early contender for 2011.

Track Listing: et Freedom Ring; Standoff; Continuum; Pendulum; The Piper at the Gates of Dawn; Brazilia; Hermitage.

Personnel: Dave Liebman: soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, wooden flute; Richie Beirach: piano; Ron McClure: bass; Billy Hart: drums.

Title: Re-Dial: Live in Hamburg | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: OutNote Records

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