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David Liebman: The Elements: Water

Jim Santella By

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Influenced by John Coltrane, Lennie Tristano, and Charles Lloyd, then having interned with Elvin Jones and Miles Davis, saxophonist Dave Liebman has a lot to draw from when he sits down at the piano to compose. More about the session’s leader may be found at www.arkadiarecords.com . This album is just the first of four jazz suites to be created by Liebman; music that wakes up the listener’s imagination and successfully folds in modern mainstream jazz with tone poem imagery. His quartet uses various textures and exceptional talent to illustrate various facets of water in our world.

Just like the ocean’s white caps indicate strength and beauty at the same time, Liebman’s tenor saxophone pours forth on "White Caps" with accompaniment from Metheny’s guitar-synth. It’s contemporary jazz at its best. Along with bass and drums, the two soloists burn with a jazz power that resembles the rocking mood from early Blood, Sweat, and Tears as well as from one of the most original forces in jazz—John Coltrane. That’s the whole idea of a jazz tone poem: to evoke specific images using the tools of the trade. Metheny’s acoustic guitar begins the album with carefully-placed phrases that resemble water dripping somewhere in Nature, gently and somewhat constant. To that Liebman adds his soprano saxophone, showering the landscape and turning with the wind as bass and drums assist. The wood flute is used to create an Oriental landscape on "Reflecting Pool," as Metheny plucks a 48-string Pikasso guitar that gives off the sound of a zither, and drummer Hart colors with cymbals, gongs, and appropriate percussion. Liebman’s soprano sax then sings gentle melodies; the kinds you’d expect to listen to while sitting by the side of a quiet pool tucked away somewhere with gardens and a peaceful sky. The ensemble follows that with "Storm Surge," which places the modern mainstream quartet square in the middle of an ocean that rolls on and on without breaking. Metheny’s electric guitar, never harsh and without pausing, swims hand in hand with the soprano saxophone’s unending melodies. To wrap up the piece, Hart takes an extended drum solo, using a softer texture across his snare and tom-tom heads, rapping out the sandy sounds you’d expect to hear as waves come gracefully ashore. Similarly, McBee provides a lengthy bass solo in the middle of "Ebb and Flow" that indicates the static nature of frothy ocean water atop the sand as seen at the beach between waves. Metheny’s guitar-synth and Liebman’s soprano sax provide the kind of constant motion that comes and goes without interruption. Highly Recommended.

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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