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The Dave Liebman Group: Turnaround: The Music of Ornette Coleman

Dan McClenaghan By

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The Dave Liebman Group: Turnaround: The Music of Ornette Coleman 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 outing—bassist 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 ensemble—four 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.


Track Listing: Enfant; Turnaround; Kathelin Gray; Bird Food; Lonely Woman; Cross Breeding; Face of the Bass/Beauty is a Rare Thing; Una Muy Bonita; The Blessing; The Sky.

Personnel: Dave Liebman: tenor and soprano saxophones, wooden flute; Vic Juris: electric and acoustic guitars; Tony Marino: bass; Marko Marcinko: drums.

Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Jazzwerkstatt Berlin-brandenburg E.v. | Style: Modern Jazz


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