Support All About Jazz

All About Jazz needs your help and we have a deal. Pay $20 and we'll hide those six pesky Google ads that appear on every page, plus this box and the slideout box on the right for a full year! You'll also fund website expansion.

I want to help

David Liebman: The Distance Runner

Chris May By

Sign in to view read count
David Liebman: The Distance Runner A tour de force of spontaneous musicmaking and an object lesson in how to put prodigious technical facility at the service of the music, rather than something to be admired for its own mechanical and ultimately barren sake, master saxophonist Dave Liebman's The Distance Runner is from a solo concert recorded at the Willisau festival in '04. An entire album of solo saxophone music (with a brief flute interlude) might sound like hard work for the listener (and sometimes it sure enough is). But this one is a warm and engrossing delight.

Liebman has explored much of the material here on earlier, studio-recorded CDs—the soprano features "The Loneliness Of A Long Distance Runner" and "The Tree: Roots, Limbs, Branches," the tenor feature "Colors: Red, Gray, Yellow," and the extended tenor/soprano/pre-recorded tape suite "Time Immemorial: Before, Then, Now, After." But so passionate is his commitment to in-the-moment creation, and so fecund is his imagination, that these are entirely fresh, new-architecture readings. The Sidney Bechet and John Coltrane covers "Petite Fleur" and "Peace On Earth," the first charming, the second soulful, are new to me. (Liebman isn't big on quotes, but there's a nice reference to "Auld Lang Syne" woven into the final chorus of "Peace On Earth.")

Liebman's dedication to spontaneous, open-skies creation was in part engendered by his studies with Lennie Tristano in the early '60s. Amongst his core exercises, Tristano would have his students perform a raft of standards in every key and at every speed, so that negotiating the changes ultimately ceased to be a conscious act, allowing head and heart to roam free. (Liebman himself has gone on to become an inspirational teacher to some of today's most compelling new stars: in an AAJ interview last summer, Ingrid Laubrock described studying with Liebman as "one of the biggest changes that has happened to me as musician.")

As a masterclass in advanced technique, The Distance Runner is without recent parallel. Liebman packs serious weight at every point on the register, ar-tic-u-lates with microscopic precision at even the fastest speeds, has perfect control of harmonics and multiphonics, and has developed a uniquely soaring, hi-frequency, vibrato-less tone (appropriately, he allows himself the occasional vibrato on "Petite Fleur"), to which the only thing to do is surrender yourself.

Sixty or so years ago, a young musician sat in on a jam session with Coleman Hawkins. Afterwards a friend asked him what the experience had been like. "Fantastic," he said, "but Hawkins scared the shit out of me."

"Coleman Hawkins is meant to scare the shit out of you," replied his friend. I don't know about anyone else, but Liebman scares the shit out of me.

Track Listing: The Loneliness Of A Long Distance Runner: Mind And Body; Colors: Red, Gray, Yellow; Petite Fleur; The Tree: Roots, Limbs, Branches; Mother, Father; Time Immemorial: Before, Then, Now, After; Peace On Earth.

Personnel: Dave Liebman: soprano and tenor saxophones, wooden flute.

Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Hatology | Style: Modern Jazz


  • The Sky
    The Sky
    Dave Liebman
    Turnaround: The Music of...
  • A Bright Place
    A Bright Place
    Dave Liebman Big Band
    Live/As Always
  • WTC
    Dave Liebman / Richie Beirach / Frankfurt Radio Bigband
    Quest for Freedom
  • Lost Horizon
    Lost Horizon
    Dave Liebman / Contact
    Five on One
  • Standoff
    Dave Liebman / Quest
Jazz Raconteurs
CD/LP/Track Review
Live Reviews
Read more articles
Expansions - The Puzzle
Expansions - The...
Whaling City Sound
Expansions: The Puzzle
Expansions: The Puzzle
Whaling City Sound
Expansions: The Puzzle
Expansions: The Puzzle
Whaling City Sound
Lineage: Rock and Pop Classics Revisited
Lineage: Rock and Pop...
Whaling City Sound
Arthur Barron, David Liebman, Abel Pabon: The Miami Jazz Project
Arthur Barron, David...
Zoho Music
Whaling City Sound
Kenny Garrett Kenny Garrett
sax, alto
Freddie Hubbard Freddie Hubbard
Wayne Shorter Wayne Shorter
Michael Brecker Michael Brecker
sax, tenor
Chris Potter Chris Potter
Joe Lovano Joe Lovano
McCoy Tyner McCoy Tyner
Joe Henderson Joe Henderson
sax, tenor
Art Pepper Art Pepper
sax, alto
Jan Garbarek Jan Garbarek
sax, tenor

More Articles

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

New Service For Musicians!

Boost your visibility at All About Jazz and drive traffic to your website with Premium Musician Profile.