2010 has been a busy year for Dave Liebman, though not always one in which the saxophonist sits in the featured chair: he is the horn man on Contact's highly collaborative Five in One
(Pirouet Records, 2010), a superb all-star outing; sits in on half of rising star Bobby Avey
's A New Face
(Jay Dell Records, 2010); and stars as the featured soloist on Live/As Always
(Mamma Records, 2010), with his Dave Liebman Big Band.
Liebman explores the classic music of the alto saxophonist and free jazz pioneer with Turnaround: The Music of Ornette Coleman
Liebman is no stranger to the freer end of the jazz spectrum, having played with Miles Davis
in the early seventies on the groundbreaking On the Corner
(Columbia, 1972) and Dark Magus
(Columbia, 1974), but his music of late has been closer to what might be described as a very adventurous forward-tilted mainstream. He also uses a much broader harmonic palette than Coleman does. So an immersion into the highly melodic Ornette Coleman
sound allows Liebman the opportunity the paint some broad sweeps of harmonic color over, under and around the altoist's' frameworks. The results are superb.
Liebman employs his longstanding quartet on the outingbassist Tony Marino
, drummer Marko Marcinko
and guitarist Vic Juris
. The group's approach is highly collaborative, a testament to two decades of playing together; as cohesive and responsive as any ensemblefour vibrant, freewheeling risk takers.
The music Liebman has chosen to cover is from Coleman's ear-opening beginnings in the late fifties and early sixties, starting with "Enfant," heard first on Ornette on Tenor
(Atlantic Records, 1962). Liebman's group gives the tune a brisk momentum and relaxed group lubrication. Liebman is on tenor, sounding gruff and growly, and Juris supplies an electric shine with his ringing chords immersed in a floating bass drum rhythm.
"Turnaround," first heard on Tomorrow is the Question
(Contemporary, 1959), and again on the brilliant Sound Grammar
(Sound Grammar, 2006), sings and sways in front of Marcinko's rattle and pop drum work; and perhaps Coleman's most famous tune, "Lonely Woman," from his burst-to-prominence The Shape of Jazz to Come
(Atlantic Records, 1959), is given a complete makeover: slowed to a religious solemnity, with Liebman on wood flute, blowing cool over Juris' metallic, monastery harmonics.
The leader, who has concentrated mainly on the soprano saxophone these past few years, employs his tenor saxophone on a good percentage of the set, with a sound that is always robust, supremely confident and sometimes downright wild and woolly.
Liebman has never risen to the highest levels of jazz stardom, but seems too busy making music to worry about profile or career moves. Turnaround: The Music of Ornette Coleman
should shine a very bright and well-deserved light on the veteran artist and his magnificent quartet.