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Album Review

Expansions: The Dave Liebman Group: Samsara

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Expansions: The Dave Liebman Group: Samsara
Trying to keep up with all of saxophonist Dave Liebman's musical exploits? Good luck. A year doesn't seem to go by when Liebman doesn't release multiple recordings with different bands on different labels. Take 2014 for example: it's a year that has already seen his big band-based A Tribute To Wayne Shorter (Mama Records, 2014), an exploratory venture with The Saxophone Summit on Artistshare, and a co-headlined release dubbed The Miami Jazz Project (Zoho, 2014). And then there's Liebman's live efforts. He still travels the globe, bringing his music to the people and maintaining his "road warrior" status in the process. Liebman has more music in him than most, so he rarely goes too long without releasing something different. Perhaps he's even recorded and/or released something during the time it took to write this piece.

Liebman's latest venture, not surprisingly, focuses on the new. After two-plus decades with the Vic Juris-based version of The Dave Liebman Group, the saxophonist has found another band worthy of that designation. It's a quintet that's not tethered to any specific dynamic, containing musicians practiced in the art of collective improvisation and in-the-moment architectural design. That's not to say this is free jazz or music without borders. Structure is here, but so are harmonic wormholes, metric pitfalls, and canvases awaiting more musical paint. The music can be dastardly and devious ("Level One"), mystical ("Child Refugee"), mellow, or intense.

While Liebman is obviously the man behind the music here, working confidently with horn in hand, the shape of the music is molded not by his soprano saxophone and wooden flute, but by the piano and electric piano of Bobby Avey. He stands tall as a composer with the not-so-simple "Simply," sets the scene on "Embers," creates drama and tension on the winning "Level One," and paints with an extraordinary palette of colors elsewhere. The rest of the band—multi-reedist Matt Vashlishan, bassist Tony Marino, and drummer Alex Ritz—seems to be on the same page as Liebman and Avey. They know when to pull back and when to push the envelope. Together, these five men make music that can be alternately prickly or peaceful.

Hints of Ornette Coleman come to the surface in a few places, and direct references to Thelonious Monk (The "Evidence"-based "Endive") and Miles Davis ("Sivad") are here, but this is no look toward the past. Expansions exists in the present, pushing boundaries, toying with expectations, and letting the spirit of the moment determine its course.

Track Listing

Simply; Ugly Beauty; Endive; Liberian Hummingbird; Rhythm Thing; Searcher 2; Level One; Embers; Sivad; Child Refugee; Samsara.

Personnel

Dave Liebman: soprano saxophone, wooden flute; Bobby Avey: piano, electric piano; Matt Vashlishan: alto saxophone, clarinet, flute; Tony Marino: electric bass, acoustic bass; Alex Ritz: drums, frame drum.

Album information

Title: Samsara | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Whaling City Sound

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