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David Liebman: The Elements: Water

Jack Bowers By

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Water, the first of four Jazz suites by Dave Liebman inspired by the elements (Earth, Air and Fire are to follow) is designed to evoke images of water in its many forms and guises, from tranquil to chaotic, rivulet to ocean, droplet to deluge. Does it achieve its purpose? Perhaps so. But others will have to make that assessment. I’ve always had trouble with tone poems, classical or any other kind. Even with program in hand, they usually sound like no more than music to me — my limited comprehension or imagination won’t allow me to envision streams running, waves crashing, waters flowing, or whatever else was intended. I suppose that’s why I never derived much benefit from so–called “relaxation” tapes in which one is directed to close his/her eyes and picture verdant fields, tranquil streams, sunny skies and so on. My mind quickly wanders from those likenesses to attach itself to far more mundane concerns. And so it is with Water; as I can’t visualize the underly ing concept, I must evaluate the music on its own terms. Here again, my capacity is in all likelihood inadequate for the task. I can report only what I hear, and that is, for the most part, some pretty music that encircles the periphery of Jazz, often meanders like a stream but seems to be going nowhere in particular. Let me hasten to add that everyone involved in this enterprise is an excellent musician who no doubt had ironclad faith in what was to be accomplished. I’ve heard Liebman on disc and seen him in person, and while I can’t always understand or appreciate his point of view, I know an outstanding player when I hear one. As for Metheny, Hart and McBee, their credentials are, unlike the president’s, unimpeachable. If I am unable to immerse myself in this Water, the fault perhaps is mine, but I am unable to form an emotional bond with music whose elements, now matter how sincere or well–conceived, are beyond the realm of my circumscribed awareness. At the end of the disc, Liebman discusses with producer Bob Karcy the suite and how and why it was written, and he seems, as he has to me on other occasions, to be a genuinely warm and likeable person. I’m truly sorry that I can’t get closer to or derive more pleasure from much of his music.

Track Listing: Water: Giver of Life; White Caps; Heaven’s Gift; Bass Interlude; Reflecting Pool; Storm Surge; Guitar Interlude; Baptismal Font; Ebb and Flow; Water Theme (reprise); Dave Liebman’s reflections on “Water”.

Personnel: Dave Liebman, soprano, tenor saxophones, wood flute; Cecil McBee, bass; Billy Hart, drums; Pat Metheny, guitars.

Title: The Elements: Water | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Arkadia Jazz


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