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The David Liebman Group at the Deerhead Inn

Victor L. Schermer By

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Liebman used his consummate harmonic skills to create some of the most beautiful rapid-fire improvisations I
The David Liebman Group
The Deerhead Inn
Delaware Water Gap, PA
October 20, 2006


David Liebman is a preeminent jazz saxophonist who has sustained a top-of-the-line reputation for four decades. He embodies a rare combination of discipline, knowledge, technique, and passion. Simply put, he is a true and dedicated master. Throughout his career, he has kept growing, evolving, listening, playing, composing, teaching, seeking new understanding, and pushing the limits of the instrument and of musical expression. His music compels the listener to think as well as feel. Each phrase and line emerges from his horn as a concept, a question, and answer. Then, kaleidoscopically, he goes on to the next series, so that an integrated composition evolves from the many parts as they emerge. When you attend one of his performances or listen to his rich library of recordings, you never know where the creative impulse is going to take him, so you may sometimes be stunned or even puzzled by the corner of the labyrinth onto which he has turned.
For Liebman, as for other jazz greats, a steady working group is an artistic necessity. To quote from his Arkadia Records biography, he "has spent his whole career playing with some of the best in the business. He spent extensive periods as a member of the Miles Davis and Elvin Jones groups. As a leader, he has been associated since 1970 with a succession of extraordinary groups from Open Sky Trio to Lookout Farm to Quest, each of which has framed a distinct phase of his musical evolution. His present ensemble, The Dave Liebman Group, was formed in 1991. Pursuing a very eclectic contemporary style, the band has toured Europe, Japan and Israel, and recorded seven CDs. Each member brings to the group a wide range of talents, which enables the music to move in many directions. According to his former drummer, Jamey Haddad, who recently left Liebman to tour with Paul Simon, "Dave is the most inspired and hardest working musician I know, comfortable enough in his own skin to tolerate me! Dave not only gives me the space I need, but he digs, mines and helps to refine the musical personalities in all the musicians he comes into contact with. The group's new drummer, Marko Marcinko, would certainly echo these sentiments. A hard-driving percussionist in the Art Blakey tradition, yet with a contemporary flair and mind-boggling technique, Marcinko brings a dynamic energy to the Liebman group and can go in any direction the group and the music take him. With Liebman, guitarist Vic Juris, bassist Tony Marino, and Marcinko, the David Liebman Group gave a stunning, vibrant, and swinging performance at the Deerhead Inn on a fall evening in late October.
But the event was not without its vicissitudes! Juris was delayed in a traffic jam while driving out to the Water Gap on the infamous Route 80, so the evening had to begin with a trio. Dave handled the circumstance with grace, but later told me somewhat apologetically that "it was the first time in fifteen years that one of our guys came late. Nonetheless, the group minus one took the occasion to do some standards like "You and the Night and the Music and "Milestones. Not that they played them in any "standard way. Liebman seemed to use the situation to flex his chops with various sounds reminiscent of saxophone greats from Coltrane to Sonny Rollins to Stan Getz, switching around his phrasings in ways that seemed to evoke a history of jazz saxophone. Only Liebman could pull this off and make coherent music of it. He went everywhere it was possible to go with both the soprano and tenor sax, and yet there was a wonderful and lyrical continuity to it all. This was helped along by Marino's passionate bass playing and Marcinko's steady and powerful rhythm. It will be interesting to see where this eclectic group will go musically with Marcinko's very distinct hard bop style.

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