Sunday, October 16, 2011

OCT 14 2011

To all my readers past, present and future who have read what I have called my newsletter, Intervals, over the years I am about to make a change. When I started Intervals it was the result of a program initiated by the National Endowment of the Arts in the early 1990’s specifically meant for a portion of the jazz musician population who were then considered in “mid-career.” This meant not young enough to be part of the then widely publicized “Young Lions” movement, but on the other hand not old enough to be living legends. This described my situation quite well at the time. I was directed to journalist Bret Primack, who has since become synonymous with jazz on the internet. After a variety of ideas, including management, starting a non profit corporation, filling out grants, etc., all moves that have been done with varying degrees of success by other artists, we settled on the idea of incorporating a newsletter. First of all, I enjoyed writing and by then had authored several books, so I was comfortable with typing (yes, on a typewriter!!) and was not too bad at expressing myself in this medium. The idea was for people to be aware of my activities and as it evolved, my thoughts on various subjects. Of course this was well before the internet, blogs, e mails, etc. I started out with typed newsletters, getting help from a local couple, Scott and Joan Fabian, mailing out hundreds of copies using a bulk rate. With the advent of e mail I sent Intervals directly to people for a few years, eventually leading to posting the newsletter directly on my web site bi-monthly.

With the advent of Facebook, it is quite clear that web sites serve a very different function than just a few years ago when it was the solo source of information about an artist. Now, it is more of a repository of items concerning past and present activities….bio materials, discography, photos, educational articles, lists of publications, new recordings, itineraries, events, etc. But as a source of contact with the world at large, this has shifted to Facebook. I have a gentleman, Michael Crowell, who coordinates Facebook for me and has built up quite a large number of friends and fans over the past year plus. Because of these changes I have decided to stop publication of Intervals on my web site. Instead, I will post things directly on Facebook as they occur and have time to write. I think this is much more practical and will have a larger readership.

I must say that having to meet a deadline, though self imposed was very positive for forming my thoughts on subjects, organizing my activities and the like. I have all the past newsletters from 1993 posted on the web site in this section called Intervals as well as a table of contents with the named articles. I will continue to collect what I write about and all my activities in an organized fashion in this section of past newsletters. With gratitude to Bret Primack, Scott and Joan Fabian, and after eighteen years, Intervals has a new lease on life as a way to communicate with interested folks around the world. You can always contact me through the web site under the tab called Contact on my home page.

The exact link to my page on Facebook is:


There's a greaat story of this photo dated 1970, I believe from a record date with Louis Armstrong who died shortly after. I was at Miles' house in the late 70's and out of nowhere he grabbed a big blow up of this picture. He said something to the effect: "From him to me... to you." Whew!! More important, look at his face...the joy and the feelng of respect that Miles gives off to the father of all of us.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


It can be easy to take Brazilian music for granted, if only because someone like Antonio Carlos Jobim’s music is so ubiquitous. We hear him and other bossa nova songs in elevators, shopping malls and the like all over the world. The first misconception is that samba and bossa nova ARE Brazilian music, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Like all large countries, geography makes a difference especially when a country is long in a north/south configuration. In general the centers seem to be Bahia in the north which is very African influenced, Rio De Janeiro with the bossa nova and its predecessors and Sao Paolo which has a long “choro” tradition, their equivalent to our Dixieland in a way. I’m sure there are more stylistic centers that I am not aware of…just imagine the Amazon Basin. Furthermore the racial mixture is among the most intense in the world meaning a great melting pot of musical influences.

For me, the concert featuring myself, Marcelo Coehlo and guitarist/singer/composer Guinga was very special. He seems to be quite an underground hero but certainly has some recognition publicly because his CDs are extensively produced and from what I understood he recently performed with the LA Philharmonic featuring arrangements of his tunes by Vince Mendoza. And recently at the Newport Jazz Festival, the new rage Esperanza Spaulding sang a few of his tunes. This concert we did in Sao Paulo as part of the IASJ‘s 21st Annual Jazz Meeting (a big success described below) was one of the highlights of my performing career. Guinga’s music, his voice, the rich and at times unusual harmony, the lyrical, unforgettable melodies (still running in my head) and his PRESENCE are incredible. As one of my friends noted, Brazil is probably the only country where you feel comfortable doing one ballad, rubato-ish tune after another, which is exactly what we did. All I can say I am glad that I had lead sheets prior and practiced, because some of the music was very challenging. You can see clips on You Tube under Dave Liebman and Guinga. This is a heavy cat!!

One musical thing for sure…. These guys do more with the ii-V progression than even the Broadway and film American composers. I have never seen so many combinations of this progression, always with a lyrical melody on top. Add the rhythm, which is a whole world in itself and you have a potent mixture. This is before the lyrics which of course I don’t understand, but the Portuguese language is so smooth and mellow, everything sounds great. Like Indian music, the world of Brazilian music is very deep.

Choro musicians at club

This was definitely one of the great meetings over the past decades. Our host school Souza Lima, located in downtown Sao Paulo with several satellite locations has been involved with jazz and pop music for 30 years. The staff is incredible and the facility very workable. At all of our meetings, I urge the host school to present some music that represents their country, not jazz, but from the people. In Israel, Spain and a few other places in the past, we had some wonderful presentations. But here they gave us something every day: choro masters, a drum group and on the last day, a real special guy, Filo Machado, another killer guitarist and singer. Filo, (very different from Guinga), is a one man show, using every part of his body for rhythm, playing the hell out of the guitar and singing with an incredibly strong spirit. The guy can light up hell, I’m sure. There was also a great presentation from one of our ling time members, Antonio Aldolfo, an expert teacher and author of books examining the basics of Brazilian music. The week was a great learning experience. In sum, I get the feeling that everyone in Brazil can play guitar, knows hundreds of tunes by heart and can sing…it just feels that way!!

From the IASJ standpoint, we had students and teachers from nineteen countries taking part in the ensembles that performed as we have become used to, some truly high level music at the end of the week for our final concerts, as well as jam sessions at several different venues and of course sharing ideas in instrumental master classes. Since we were in Latin America, we enjoyed our first representation from Chile, Columbia, the Dominican Republic and once again Argentina. Souza Lima is coordinating a kind of IASJ for Latin America, meeting once a year, lead by the great bassist, Oscar Stagnaro. I am hoping for some good communication between our associations. There is no doubt that Latin American musicians are becoming more and more visible in the jazz world, especially evident during the last decade. This is exactly what the IASJ is about, influences form everywhere invigorating jazz. I am very optimistic and hope to see the day when we have Africa, India and more Asian representation.
Bassist Ronan Guilfoyle from Ireland wrote a day by day description of the meeting on his blog: (part one)

Great photos from the week: |

Also my good friend Leon Segal who attended last year’s 20th Anniversary meeting in the Hague with a film crew put together a great promo video of the IASJ:

Jam session with students from Columbia, Dominican Republic and Israel

Everyone knows the famous movie about the Spinal Tap rock band. Here (not sure when it was done), the guys discuss jazz which is hilarious as well as to some extent true.

65th BIRTHDAY: Hard to believe but here’s a nice tribute put together by Bret Primack for me. I appreciate the kindness of the folks talking on this clip:

LIVE FROM BIRDLAND: You can see a set by the Dave Liebman Group and the Big Band from my week at Birdland by going to: and look for the video there....pretty good sound.

WILD SOPRANO: My friend, Ulf Radelius from Malmo, Sweden took something I recorded at his house years ago and dressed it up a bit:

One of the great tenor players and composers (“Shiny Stockings”), my recollection of Frank goes back to the first gigs I had with Elvin Jones in the early 1970s when I was hired to take Joe Farrell’s place. For the first few months, different tenor players would join since Elvin liked the two horn front line. Eventually Steve Grossman joined the band, but this was prior and often it was Frank who knew Elvin for years and had some family connection with him. One musical thing I remember about Foster was his great control of the the high (altissimo) range of the tenor before it was fashionable to play up there. He definitely practiced it because he could really play melodies in that range, very carefully choosing his notes. This was quite impressive as you could imagine to a young tenor player. But most of all was the true warmth and kindness Frank offered to me, unlike some of the other guys who would join up for a gig or two. He was a giant and a lovely person.

Every few years I like to show my face at the annual Aebersold summer jazz camps where the attendance is somewhere between 3-400 students of all ages. What I enjoy the most is seeing all the teachers, some of whom like Ed Soph, Dan Haerle, Rufus Reid, I’ve known for decades. I am always impressed with the complete selflessness exhibited by the faculty at these camps. They are of course paid, but what they do is beyond market value, offering all their wisdom to anyone interested. As informal as the camps are, there is a strict schedule which includes ear training, ensemble and instrumental master class as well as nightly performances by the faculty. I totally recommend anyone interested in jazz to attend an Aebersold workshop. These are real professionals who know how to teach.

24th LIEB MASTER CLASS ON CHROMATIC HARMONY: With participants from five countries, I delved into the material I teach at the Manhattan School of Music using my book on the subject as the centerpiece. I must say it is quite a challenge to try to fit two years worth of material into five days, but the main point is exposure to this sound. We had a great performance at the Deer Head Inn accompanied by Mike Stephans, Phil Markowitz and Tony Marino, an event that has become a tradition during the master class. Next year for the 25th, I will return to the Saxophone Master Class, interested saxophonists should get in touch after January 1, 2012 (information on my web site under Education).




My daughter Lydia's jazz radio show web site; 6PM (Easter standard time-USA)-every Sunday on the web at

Saturday, June 25, 2011


HAPPY 85th TO MILES: Hard to believe, he could easily have been around as we speak. Born May 26 1926

My good friend Jean Jacques Quesada from France always sends me movies that he thinks I would enjoy. I don’t really have time to see many and I do love movies. This one by Terence Malick is very heavy and by chance I watched it the day before Memorial Day, which for those not familiar is a holiday set aside to commemorate the war dead in America.
You can’t watch a movie like this or others on the subject: “To Hell and Back” about Audie Murphy which I remember as kid; “Saving Private Ryan” or “Platoon” or for me the greatest movie ever “Apocalypse Now” without reflecting on the subject of war. There is plenty of anti-war literature available so there is no need to go into the obvious which is the wasting of young lives at the behest of guys sitting behind a desk. Surely, there have been so-called “righteous” wars like World War II and other conflicts in history that were matters of defense. But when you think about other reasons for the slaughter like religion, nationalism, and pure greed conjured up by some guys in suits in a remote room somewhere using these pretexts, it amazes me that thousands of young people agree to be in harm’s way. Even more mind boggling to me is the idea that someone would shoot their own countrymen as we are witnessing in Libya and Syria, their neighbors and relatives. What can make them do that? The whole idea of putting all those bodies together for war because someone(s) may be delusional or paranoid or what have you is incredible; even more is that they get away with it.

IASJ MEETING AND GUINGA:I will be going to La Plata, Argentina for a two day workshop in the end of June followed by the Annual IASJ Jazz Meeting which is in Sao Paulo, Brazil this year. Everyone is looking so forward to going to this very vibrant city and being immersed in Brazilian music, which as I have discovered is as varied stylistically as jazz. The combination of European harmony and Brazilian rhythms is really fascinating. The tradition of guitar and voice is very important in Brazil. Through a good friend on mine (pianist Micu Narunsly) I was turned on to a musician named Guinga (I assume that is a nickname?), whose music is absolutely the most beautiful I have heard in years. Guinga doesn’t read music and was from what I understand a practicing dentist. I searched him out and he told me that he was in the audience when I played in Brazil with Miles in 1974 and was familiar with me. Anyway, I have completely fallen in love with Guinga’s music which you should check out on You Tube. The orchestrations, arrangements and musicianship, the overall production is very impressive. Check him out on You Tube. We will be performing the opening concert for the IASJ Meeting as a duo with some help from one of my former students who is one of the head people at the host school, Souza Lima, Marcelo Coehlo. I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to this concert and a bit nervous. The music is very harmonically rich, beautiful and truly passionate. I’m sure there will be something up on you Tube by the first week of July.

Incredibly, after twenty years of playing together in my group I have never done a duo gig with guitarist Vic Juris. We got the opportunity in Des Moines, Iowa of all places. A wonderful couple, Jackie and Abe Goldstien organize concerts out there and invited us. Being so used to playing in duo with piano which is such a natural instrument for accompanying the horn, I was really curious as to how this would be. We had a great time and I especially enjoyed with all the sounds that Vic gets with his pedals….the atmosphere of every tune becomes enlarged and every song has a completely different ambiance. We have to do this again.

LINEAGEis a group that spans several decades, hence the name. With Mike Stephens on drums, Vic on guitar and myself, the “youngbloods” are Bobby Avey on piano and Evan Gregor on bass, two guys who are from the Pocono area where we live and have gone through the informal apprenticeship scene we have here in Pennsylvania. Both of them are doing great in New York keeping busy and refining their art. We recorded a project last year of “pop tunes" from the rock period that the three of us “old timers” know so well from the ‘50s and ‘60s like “Tequila” which was one of my first influences towards playing tenor sax. “Love Me Tender” was the first tune I played with chord changes on piano since I was an Elvis freak. It is completely reharmonized by Bobby Avey who by the way has taken the chromatic harmony to another level. Others…. “Wipe Out” which is a classic that everyone knows; Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock.” once again completely reharmonized and a few others. We are gong to put the project on Kickstarter (a web site that posts proposals for funding projects of all sorts) sometime in July, so if you feel so inclined please make a donation which would enable us to mix and release the recording. We played a gig at the Deer Head Inn in Delaware Water Gap in May. These tunes are so much fun to play live. It just shows that music is music; anything can be transformed and adapted, even “Wipe Out.”

DL GROUP IN CANADA:We had a great four day jaunt up north playing for really appreciative audiences. This review captures the essence of the group’s music. It’s nice to have someone truly LISTENING who knows the music and does the job right…..John Kelman.

Dave Liebman Group:Ottawa, Canada May 20-21,2011
When saxophonist and recent NEA Jazz Master Dave Liebman brought his longstanding group to Ottawa's Café Paradiso a little over three years ago in April, 2008, it was truly one of the hottest, most memorable shows this city has seen in years--if not ever. Now two decades old, with three of its original members--Liebman, guitar underdog Vic Juris and the equally underappreciated bassist Tony Marino--still around, and its fourth, powerhouse drummer Marko Marcinko, long beyond being the "new kid on the block," having spent ten years with the group, the continued appeal of Dave Liebman Group is, in part, undeniably about the chemistry that comes from a consistent lineup. But there are plenty of groups out there with longevity, that don't have the combination of firepower and finesse that Liebman has managed to retain with this ensemble.
In a recent All About Jazz interview, Liebman talked about how he keeps a group that only tours a few weeks a year together: "I'm very proactive as a leader, because to keep the same guys--which, through thick and thin, I try to insist upon--we don't have a lot of work and we don't make a lot of money, so the only thing I have is that they're playing with me, and the challenge of this music. Because it's for the music. I'm not trying to make it like we're carrying a cross here, but it is for the music. My job with these three guys is to make it so that there's a challenge and a reason to come out and play with me. "
For the group's return visit to Ottawa, Paradiso's owner, Alex Demianenko went a step further, not only booking Liebman for two nights, but making it a small tour that began in Montreal, continued in Quebec City and wrapped up at his club for the final two nights. It's that kind of lateral thinking that makes it possible for a group like Liebman's to come to a club like Paradiso, which is relatively small, seating a max of about 75 people. As ever, Paradiso is a wonderful place to catch a group in an intimate setting that's rare, even for clubs; sitting less than five feet away from the bandstand it's possible to see how the group interacts on the subtlest of levels. Despite its dividing half-wall running down the center of the club, lines of sight were largely fine for most attendees, and the sound was consistently excellent throughout the room--all the more surprising, given that, while Marino and Juris were amplified, there was no PA to speak of, other than a microphone for Liebman to speak into, and use when he occasionally brought out his wood flute.
Another reason that Dave Liebman Group has been around for so long is because the music never stays in one place for long. The last time the group was in Ottawa, it was a more acoustic affair--except, of course, for the kind of textural coloring that makes Juris an almost orchestral partner--with Marino solely on acoustic bass. In the same AAJ interview, Liebman explained: "I have a book that's bigger than most jazz groups in the world--we have 80-100 tunes--and I recycle here and there and change things. Basically, I really always want to keep the slant different. Right now I'm already thinking about what we're gonna do two years from now. We're in a completely different direction at the moment--electric bass only, Vic is playing a lot of colors and sounds, I am playing only soprano, and we are playing freer, sonically--a more rocky kind of vibe."
Liebman's two nights at Paradiso suggested that, while the freer approach is still going on, it was already showing signs of morphing into whatever direction comes next. Marino split his time about 50/50 between electric and acoustic basses, while Liebman did the same, spending about as much time with his tenor saxophone as he did soprano. And while the group did, indeed, rock out pretty hard--with Marcinko driving the group with a combination of incendiary pulses and an unfettered expressionism that was the perfect foil for Liebman, who's long held a reputation for similar extroversion--there were plenty of calmer moments, too, in particular with Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Zingaro," culled from New Vista (Arkadia, 1997), in Friday night's first set, where Juris switched to nylon-string acoustic guitar and the group delivered an early demonstration of its ability to play with both reverence and a healthy irreverence for the tradition, as Marino and Marcinko flexed liberally with the tempo. Still, as unfailingly beautiful as the tune was--with Liebman's warm soprano lyrically weaving through the changes--it was Juris who delivered an early high point with a solo that, just when it seemed he'd shown everything he had, came out with even more, building to a peak, but then pulling back with such a visceral sense of tension and release that the audience's collective relief was palpable.
Juris--whose Omega is the Alpha (Steeplechase, 2010) was released late in the year, but still made it into at least one 2010 Best of List--was a marvel throughout the two evenings, playing with the kind of effortless invention and open ears that made him an ideal accompanist, whether it was strumming fervently on his own "Folk Song," adding electronic textures to Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman," from the group's award-winning Turnaround (Jazzwerkstatt, 2010), or driving a riff home on his "Romulan Ale," first heard on the Liebman Group's In a Mellow Tone (ZOHO, 2004), but revisited recently on Omega. An endlessly inventive soloist, with an effortless mastery of his instrument few can match--whether executing mind-boggling intervallic leaps or creating cascading harmonics--Juris, like the rest of the group, truly manages to approach the material differently each and every time, something Ottawa fans who attended both evenings got to experience. While the four sets by no means repeated themselves, there was a handful of tunes Liebman called on both nights, including Juris' "Folk Song," the title track to Liebman's Dream of Nite (Verve, 2007), and the saxophonist's "Smokin' at the Café," an altered blues that was a great way to loosen the group up at the start of each night.
Liebman was, as ever, an equally endless fountain of ideas, and with all four sets running long--each clocking in around 90-minute mark (clearly this group came to play)--and with only six tunes per set, there was plenty of opportunity for extended soloing, though the group always managed to avoid any semblance of excess. Instead, the interplay amongst the members was so compelling, and the fun they were having so obvious and infectious, that the sets seemed to pass by in an instant. And while Liebman was relentlessly impressive on the more energetic pieces--combining remarkable tonal and textural control with the kind of ideaphoric abandon that seemed near-reckless but, as his solos developed with remarkable focus, clearly was not--he also proved himself a master of deeper lyricism on his balladic "Breath," from his duo record with Australian pianist Mike Nock, Duologue (Birdland, 2007).
Marcinko's a hard-working drummer who deserves far greater recognition. His ability to mirror Liebman or Juris rapid-fire note for rapid-fire note was matched by his locking, in-the-pocket, with Marino on tracks like the Spanish-tinged "Mesa D'espana," from Liebman's tribute to former employer, trumpeter Miles Davis, Back On the Corner (Tone Center, 2007). He soloed rarely, and while those occasions were as exciting and dynamic as would be expected, it was his ensemble work that, ultimately, was more impressive. Like the rest of his band mates, he worked from structural roadmaps, but with a free and unhindered approach that made even the most familiar material fresh, like the group's cover of Dizzy Gillespie's "Night in Tunisia"--reharmonized and delivered with shifting bars of ten and four. And, like the rest of his band mates, Marcinko may have turned the heat and volume up at times, but he was equally capable of turning on a dime, dynamically, and bringing the music down to a near-whisper.
The emphasis was on original music--most from Liebman and Juris, but also including Marino's "Anthracite," referencing the coal mining of which Pennsylvanians like Marino and Marcinko were all too familiar, and which became a running joke throughout the first set on Friday ("Clean coal, clean coal," Marcinko quipped as Liebman introduced the song). But Liebman, whose introductions to the tunes provided plenty of insight, also ensured that the tradition which underscores everyone in the group was never forgotten, calling out material from Coleman, Gillespie and Jobim, albeit radically reworked.
If there was a hidden gem in the group for these two nights, however, it was Marino, a largely quiet partner whose playing across all four sets, was particularly impressive. As fine as he was last time in town, this time it seemed like he'd lept to a new level, on both instruments. Whether pushing a hard acoustic groove on the Americana-tinged "Folk Song," echoing Juris with an octave-divided electric bass on "Romulan Ale," or playing it entirely free on a track from Liebman's Elements--Water (Arkadia, 1999), he combined astute technicality with unfailing musicality.
A characteristic that, indeed, defined the entire group. There was no shortage of virtuosity on display, but equally, it was never an end, only a means, with Juris building his solos through gradual motivic development, Marcinko working compositionally, Marino accomplishing the near-impossible and making his electric bass sing, and Liebman, subtly directing the group with almost imperceptible hand signals, delivering solo after solo of fire and finesse. If playing free means to be able to do anything one wants, then all four of Liebman's sets at Café Paradiso--six hours of improvisational heaven for Ottawa jazz fans--were prime examples of how four people can make spur-of-the-moment choices, individually and collectively, to create music of such passion and commitment that they once again raised the bar for live music in Canada's capital.

JAZZ POETRY WITH STEVE DALACHINSKY:Steve and I went to the same elementary school (P.S.99) in Brooklyn, so we go way back, He has pursued jazz poetry for years, which is as I have learned a separate world unto its own. We had a great gig at the Stone in the East Village, NY where this clip of this poem dedicated to Coltrane can be watched. All poets go to Trane for inspiration…it’s a given.

RECOMMENDED: My daughter, Lydia has always been good with graphics, making brochures and programs, things like that. She is helping some musicians in designing promotional flyers. Interested parties, check this out:

DUO WITH BOB MOSES: My oldest compatriot is drummer Bob Moses who introduced me to a lot of the real deal as a teenager. We first met in 1962 and have been playing on and off since then, often in duo. Bob teaches at the New England Conservatory and was able to book the historic Jordan Hall for an afternoon of recording. Mose is a one of a kind musician….there is nobody like him. Check this out:

JAZZ VISION PROJECT:I have entered a relationship with a painter from the Washington D.C. area, Barbara Januszkiewicz. I remember back in the ‘60s at so-called “happenings” when a painter would do their thing, while I played and a dancer improvised …all at the same time. The technology is much advanced now and Barbara is doing nice things to my music. Along with my French friend, pianist Jean Marie Machado, we have applied for a grant to do some concerts and collaborate on other things. Here’s a clip and small description of the beginnings of our collaboration. Like the poetry thing with Steve D. described above, mixing genres is something I love to do.

“Visionary American Jazz master Dave Liebman and American multimedia visual artist Barbara Januszkiewicz have teamed up in a wordless conversation, each in their own language responding to the other in a dialogue of musical notes and paint. Liebman’s solo saxophone artistry on his Colors album is the inspiration for the kaleidoscope of color, images, and brushstrokes Januszkiewicz captures moment by moment on her canvas. As they play off each other’s voice or visual expression in an ever-changing musical palette, the music takes on a visual rhythm and colorful beat and transforms the way you look at a painting or listen to jazz music.”

Thanks to my old friend Mike Garson for hipping me to these articles that discuss jazz improvisation specifically. It seems like the psychologists and brain specialists are finally getting hip to what we knew all along….it is a language we are speaking that definitely involves “higher” brain activity and some serious coordination.
1- Comparing basketball and improvising by Jonah Lehrer for I’ve always thought that of all the sports, basketball is the closest in spirit to jazz. Somebody gets the ball and shoot…other times you pass off…just like a good soloist is doing with the rhythm section. Anybody can be a “star” at anytime.
“Basketball has always been compared to jazz. For the most part, this analogy exists for superficial reasons. Like jazz, the modern NBA game has been pioneered by African-American icons; Michael Jordan was the Miles Davis of athletes. Furthermore, the unscripted nature of basketball seems to echo the improvisational nature of jazz, in which the notes are often unknown in advance. A fast break is like a Coltrane solo.
In general, our culture looks down upon such spontaneous forms of entertainment. We will always respect the symphony that took years to write more than the jazz album recorded on the first take. The classical work just seems more serious, more sophisticated, more worthy of critical attention. Similarly, it can be hard to defend the complexity of basketball to an ardent football fan. Have you heard what NBA coaches say during timeouts? Their game plans seem to consist entirely of vapid cliches. And then there are the plays: While athletes in the NFL have to memorize a Talmudic playbook, most NBA offensive plans are some variation of the pick and roll. The end result is that both basketball and jazz get dismissed as mindless acts of spontaneity, nothing but the carefree expression of talent. LeBron doesn’t think while slashing to the hoop – he just obeys his impulse to dunk.
The problem with our bias against improv, both in jazz and basketball, is that it fails to recognize all the mental labor behind these forms of entertainment. That jazz quartet might make their music look easy – the players are just playing – but that ease is an illusion. In reality, those musicians are relying on an intricate set of musical patterns, which allow them to invent beauty in real time. Likewise, that Chris Paul assist might seem like a lucky bounce pass, but it’s actually a by-product of some exquisite perceptual analysis. Instead of appreciating the uncanny quickness of these improv artists – watching in awe as they make something out of nothing before our very eyes – we disparage them as mere performers, unaware of all the work and smarts going on behind the scenes.
Let’s begin with basketball. A few years ago, a team of Italian neuroscientists conducted a simple study on rebounding. At first glance, rebounding looks like a brute physical skill: The tallest guy (or the one with the highest vertical) should always end up with the ball. But this isn’t what happens. Instead, some of the best rebounders in the history of the NBA, such as Dennis Rodman and Charles Barkley, were several inches shorter than their competitors. What allowed these players to get to the ball first?
The rebounding experiment went like this: 10 basketball players, 10 coaches and 10 sportswriters, plus a group of complete basketball novices, watched video clips of a player attempting a free throw. (You can watch the videos here.) Not surprisingly, the professional athletes were far better at predicting whether or not the shot would go in. While they got it right more than two-thirds of the time, the non-playing experts (i.e., the coaches and writers) only got it right about 40 percent of the time. The athletes were also far quicker with their guesses, and were able to make accurate predictions about where the ball would end up before it was even airborne. (This suggests that the players were tracking the body movements of the shooter, and not simply making judgments based on the arc of the ball.) The coaches and writers, meanwhile, could only predict a make or miss after the shot, which required an additional 300 milliseconds.
What allowed the players to make such speedy judgments? By monitoring the brains and bodies of subjects as they watched free throws, the scientists were able to reveal something interesting about the best rebounders. It turned out that elite athletes, but not coaches and journalists, showed a sharp increase in activity in the motor cortex and their hand muscles in the crucial milliseconds before the ball was released. The scientists argue that this extra activity was due to a “covert simulation of the action,” as the athletes made a complicated series of calculations about the trajectory of the ball based on the form of the shooter. (Every NBA player, apparently, excels at unconscious trigonometry.) But here’s where things get fascinating: This increase in activity only occurred for missed shots. If the shot was going in, then their brains failed to get excited. Of course, this makes perfect sense: Why try to anticipate the bounce of a ball that can’t be rebounded? That’s a waste of mental energy.
The larger point is that even a simple skill like rebounding reflects an astonishing amount of cognitive labor. The reason we don’t notice this labor is because it happens so fast, in the fraction of a fraction of a second before the ball is released. And so we assume that rebounding is an uninteresting task, a physical act in a physical game. But it’s not, which is why the best rebounders aren’t just taller or more physical or better at boxing out – they’re also faster thinkers. This is what separates the Kevin Loves and Kevin Garnetts from everyone else on the court: They know where the ball will end up first.
The same principle applies to jazz. In 2008, the Harvard neuroscientist Aaron Berkowitz and colleagues conducted an investigation of the brain activity underlying musical improv. He brought together thirteen expert pianists and had them improvise various melodies in an fMRI machine. As expected, the act of improv led to a surge of activity in a variety of neural areas, including the premotor cortex and the inferior frontal gyrus. The premotor activity is simply an echo of execution, as the new musical patterns are translated into bodily movements. The inferior frontal gyrus, however, has primarily been investigated for its role in language and the production of speech. Why, then, is it so active when people improvise music? Berkowitz argues that expert musicians invent new melodies by relying on the same mental muscles used to create a sentence; every note is like another word.”

2-And on the parts of the brain involved with improvisation: Creation on Command by Jonah Lehrer from
The first study, led by Charles Limb of the NIH and Johns Hopkins University, examined the brain activity of jazz musicians as they played on a piano. The musicians began with pieces that required no imagination such as the C-major scale and a simple blues tune they’d memorized in advance. But then came the creativity condition: The musicians were told to improvise a new melody as they played alongside a recorded jazz quartet.
While the musicians riffed on the piano, giant magnets whirred overhead monitoring minor shifts in their brain activity. The researchers found that jazz improv relied on a carefully choreographed set of mental events, which allowed the musicians to discover their new melodies. Before a single note was played, the pianists exhibited a “deactivation” of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), a brain area associated with planned actions and self-control. In other words, they were inhibiting their inhibitions, which allowed the musicians to create without worrying about what they were creating.
But it’s not enough to just unleash the mind — successful improv requires a very particular kind of expression. That’s why the fMRI machine also recorded a spike in activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, a fold of frontal lobe just behind the eyes. This area is often linked with self-expression — it lights up, for instance, whenever people tell a story in which they’re the main character. The scientists argue that this part of the brain is required for jazz improv because the musicians are channeling their artistic identity, searching for the notes that best summarize their style. “Jazz is often described as being an extremely individualistic art form,” Limb says. “What we think is happening is when you’re telling your own musical story, you’re shutting down impulses that might impede the flow of novel ideas.”
In the second experiment scientists at Harvard investigated the varieties of musical improvisation. They recruited 12 classically trained pianists and had them spontaneously create both rhythms and melodies. Unlike the Hopkins experiment, which compared brain activity between improv and memorized piano melodies, this brain scanning experiment was primarily designed to compare activity between two different kinds of improv.
As expected, both improv conditions led to a surge in activity in a variety of brain areas, including parts of the premotor cortex and, most intriguingly, the inferior frontal gyrus. The premotor activity is simply an echo of execution — the novel musical patterns, after all, must still be translated by the fingers. The inferior frontal gyrus, however, has primarily been investigated for its role in language — it includes Broca’s area, which is essential for the production of speech. Why, then, is it so active when people create music on the piano? The scientists argue that expert musicians create new melodies by relying on the same mental muscles used to create a sentence; every note is another word.
These two brain-scanning studies provide an elegant view into our seething cauldron. They reveal a brain able to selectively silence that which keeps us silent. And just when we’ve found the courage to create something new, the brain surprises us with an expression of ourselves. We suddenly find our reflection — not in the mirror, or even in our words. It’s in the music.

AMORTALS:The following paragraph from Time Magazine is quite interesting for those of us advancing in years, at least on the calendar… 65th is coming in September!!
“The defining characteristic of “amortals” is that they live at the same way, the same pitch, doing and consuming much the same things, from their late teens right up to their death. They rarely ask themselves if their behavior is age appropriate, because that concept has little meaning for them. They don’t structure their lives around the inevitability of death, because they prefer to ignore it. Instead they chose to chase aspirations and covet new goods and services. Amortals assume all options are always open. They postpone retirement by choice, not necessity.”
Sounds like some guys I know who inspire me right out here in Pennsylvania as they continue to be active….Phil Woods, Bob Dorough and Roy Haynes to mention a few. Who has time to worry about the inevitable when you have to learn a new tune?

ROY HAYNES AT 85:Talk about an “amortal”…from late night TV. You want to talk inspiration…check this out!!

LEE KONITZ RECUPERATING:Lee had a brain aneurysm in Melbourne, Australia a few weeks ago. I spoke with him and it appears that full recovery will happen. He was in excellent spirits. Another warrior!!

THE LATIN CATS:Two friends of my daughter from Boston are absolutely killing in a little drum thing. Anyone want to tell me where beat 1 is?

ITINERARY:As a result of slower season in Europe with funding cuts for the arts which is the lifeline of jazz there, the itinerary for the summer months is slower than the normal. I am using this time to recalibrate, hang with the family and generally catch up with the several hundred CDs on my shelf given to me over the last few years by students, etc., to listen to.

JULY:IASJ Jazz Meeting at Souza Lima School, Sao Paulo, Brazil including performance with Guinga; Jamey Aebersold Workshop at University of Louisville, Kentucky

AUGUST:Chromatic Harmony Master Class held at East Stroudsburg University, East Stroudsburg, PA including performance at the Deer Head Inn; five nights at Birdland, (NYC) with Steve Kuhn, Steve Swallow, Billy Drummond; Deer Head Inn (Delaware Water Gap, PA)with Dan Wilkins Group; Deer Head Inn with Dave Liebman Group

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Sitting in Europe watching on TV the Royal Wedding followed a few days later by Pope John Paul II beatification ceremony in Rome made an impression on me about something that I have always been fascinated with which is the power of symbols to mankind. No matter how cynical one might be about humanity, the fact that large numbers of people (now more than ever because of the media reach) flock to happenings like these is a testament to the overwhelming human need to be positive and lift the spirit, to have sign posts that stand outside of one’s personal life and can be shared by all. Needless to say, the British know how to throw a party, this aptitude being one of their major contributions to culture for centuries, while the Catholic Church doesn’t too badly either in that regard. It’s a cliché but so true that the differences between peoples are dwarfed by what is in common-the need for spiritual meaning, the joy of love and devotion and as we see so clearly in Japan and the tornado ridden southern states of America, how generous people can be towards each other

-Jazz Standard-NYC: With Saxophone Summit (minus Lovano), we played twos ets oft eh music from this seminal release as part of a week long celebration of the record label Imulse’s fiftieth year. Incredibly producer Creed Taylor who started the label was in attendance, saying he hasn’t heard this music since the day Trane recorded in in 1961. It was John’s only outing with a large ensemble (outside of “Ascension” later on) with great tunes all pointing towards what the quartet would accomplish for the next few years…modal formats with McCy’s fourth voicings, Elvin and in this case, Reggie Workman slashing behind with Trane riding the waves on soprano and tenor. We had a great time playing that language.

Review by Nate Chinen-NY Times:
“…..The kickoff, on Wednesday, involved Coltrane’s “Africa/Brass” as interpreted by Saxophone Summit, featuring David Liebman and Ravi Coltrane, with Phil Markowitz on piano, Cecil McBee on bass and Billy Hart on drums. The late set, which began like a thunderclap and ended as an oceanic swell, was most intriguing for the contrast between its two frontmen, each a different kind of heir to the Coltrane sound. Ravi Coltrane, the son of John and Alice Coltrane, was 2 when his father died in 1967; since coming into his own as a saxophonist, he has carefully weighed his stylistic inheritance against his own artistic identity, which skews cooler in temperament. Here he seemed unusually intent on strident epiphany: his solo on “Blues Minor,” the opener, was full of overblown notes and impassioned digressions, hard swerves out of the given key. Mr. Liebman, who will turn 65 this fall, came of age in John Coltrane’s immediate wake, embracing the influence as truth. His own style, marked by an imploring intelligence, can be understood as a specific dialect of the Coltrane language. And on almost every solo he dug impressively deep. Playing tenor on “Blues Minor,” he worked a cantorial cry; his soprano turn on “Song of the Underground Railroad,” a reworked spiritual not included on the original LP, had him evoking the fever pitch of the post-Coltrane avant-garde. His contribution to “Africa,” the album’s droning title track, was an essay on wooden flute, expressive and gorgeous. For all the focus on saxophones, a Coltrane tribute lives or dies by its rhythm section, and this one labored admirably. Mr. Markowitz, in his tolling accompaniment as well as in his methodical solos, suggested a contemporary gloss on the McCoy Tyner school, filtered through the likes of Chick Corea. And Mr. Hart was the heavy lifter, managing an inexhaustible and, just as crucially, personal take on Elvin Jones’s polyrhythmic fire. “Africa/Brass” was a large-ensemble album, with French horns, brass and reeds, and in that sense an anomaly in the Coltrane oeuvre. Because those textures were ancillary, arranged around a working quartet, their absence here wasn’t a problem. The set could have used a bit more warmth in its bluster — one reason to wish Joe Lovano, usually a marquee figure in Saxophone Summit, could have made the gig — but its sincerity, and the light it reflected on both Coltrane and his label, couldn’t have been clearer."

Photo by Tom Gieske

I had quite an intense eclectic week doing a workshop for several days and playing in Tallinn, Estonia with a great band that featured a former Master’s degree student from the Manhattan School of Music, Kristjan Rondalu and guitarist Jaak Sooar. As I usually do I let the local leader of the group choose the tunes from my work that they want to play. What is interesting to me is that the choices of songs Jaak made reflect the “chromatic” harmonic style I first started using compositionally in the ‘80s which was basically double triad chords in various combinations. It seems in some small way, this language has now become sort of standardized, which is gratifying to say the least. So there’s always hope that what you conceive of now will find its way to other musicians a few decades later.

BRUSSELS: With the release of Guided Dream on a Belgium based label, the very polished Brussels Jazz Orchestra and I played the music from that recording, mentioned in New Releases below. What was most interesting about the evening was a contest for the best arrangement for big band with four finalists chosen by the band from over 50 contestants to be judged this night by five big band European so-called “experts.” As I have always maintained, contests with financial rewards are something that I do not endorse, first of all because music is NOT sports. But more to the point is that you are judging apples and oranges, meaning it comes down to a matter of taste and experience. It happened to be that Bob Mintzer, who knows a thing or two about big band writing was also in attendance working with a youth band. We both chose the same chart, which did not win. It was adventurous and not clichéd, but obviously the taste of the judges was more, shall we say, orthodox. How can you judge between pieces of music that have different goals and intentions? Can you say that Love Supreme is better than Speak No Evil for example? On the other hand, these occasions do bring attention to budding talent, but I don’t feel contests are the way to accomplish that.

WARSAW: In line with the beatification ceremony of the late Pope John Paul II, there was a performance of an oratorio written using the poetry of the then young priest from Kracow during World War II as the text for songs. Including a choir of children, string orchestra and jazz rhythm section with several soloists (among them the incredible French accordionist Richard Galliano and Polish trumpeter Piotr Wojastik), it was quite a thrill to be apart of this event which took place in the same square (the coldest I have ever played outdoors) where the Pope gave one of his most important speeches. I love the Polish public…they are really receptive and open.

Clips from the concert:

All The Things You Are:

This one is an ethnic type tune with a burning singer:

POETRY AND JAZZ: Harkening back to the old Beatnik days in the Village that I remember from my teenage years, along with my elementary school class mate from over 50 years ago, Steve Dalachinsky, we had a jazz and poetry night at the Stone in the East Village. Steve is quite well known in these circles, overseas as well as here and it was really fun for me to improvise upon first hearing of these mostly jazz flavored poems. It appears that jazz poetry is a whole genre of its own, something I learned more about from guesting in a class taught by Herman Beavers last month at the University of Pennyslvania. This clip was the final poem dedicated to Coltrane in which Steve weaves many of John’s titles:

SKETCHES OF SPAIN-Linz, Austria: With Jean Charles Richard conducting and Wolfgang Reisinger on drums along with some wonderful Austrian musicians, I performed this piece once again at the Brucknerhaus. I never tire of playing this suite, my all time favorite piece of music. The recording was so good, it seems that we will have a release on an Austrian label in the near future.
THREE GIGS IN ONE DAY: A first for me: To the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY for an early afternoon lecture; then on to Syracuse for a mid afternoon public discussion of the program to be played the next evening there; finally to Ithaca for a late one setter with drummer John Riley and guitarist Steve Brown. The next day was the main gig in Syracuse playing original music written for me by Bret Zvacek based on Jewish and Arab scale formats, which was quite interesting to play. This was a community big band of professionals from the area that has been doing together for fifteen years. I love when I see grass roots energy being used to promote this music.

FROM STRINGS TO ROCK: I had a wonderful duet tour with Jean Marie Machado, a French pianist with who I have been collaborating over the past few years. One of the gigs was with a string quartet that displayed his high level compositional and arranging skills. Just to change things up, one gig in the middle of our duo tour was playing the music from On The Corner with Andy Emler (keyboards), Badal Roy (tables), Linley Marthe (bass), Eric Echampard (drums) and the incredible Manu Codjia (guitar). All in a day’s work.

AMAZING-We3 with Adam Nussbaum, Steve Swallow-Kind of Blue Records:
A great collection with classic Swallow compositions as well as from Adam and myself. I love this trio because of the vibe we get from years of playing and associating together.

GUIDED DREAM-with the Brussels Jazz Orchestra-Provo Records: A top notch band playing my originals from two live gigs. These guys really do it right, well rehearsed and committed to excellence.

LAST WORDS-George Carlin autobiography:
One of the great wave of comedians that for me were more philosophers than comedians with great observations of life in America mid 20th century. First of all the way Carlin describes his childhood in Manhattan is a page out of how I remember New York when I was growing up. It happens to be that he lived right near where the present Manhattan School of Music is located (actually Julliard in his day). His take on growing up in the greatest city in the world at the time along with his family situation is touching and of course humorous because of Carlin’s wit. But even more impressive to me is his analysis of American society during this part of the 20th century…the prejudices, contradictions and general hypocrisy about sex, politics and more that was rampant in those years. Hi is spot on about the hippie period, the Reagan years and more. With an incisiveness and intelligence right up there with Richard Pryor who was similar, but less overtly political. It’s also a story of how Carlin matured in the entertainment business from playing the game to finding a way to cut through all the bull that surrounds that field of endeavor. This is actually an inspirational book as well as historical.

WEATHER REPORT: I was turned on to a Weather Report concert in 1975 in Berlin that was unbelievable. What a band that was and what a legacy they left. Any live performances by that group are worth checking out.

ELEVEN YEAR OLD SCATTING BIRD: The world can’t be in too bad a shape if this is happening:

MEL LEWIS-THE HISTORY OF JAZZ DRUMMING: In the 1980’s drummer Mel Lewis gave a series of interviews on WKCR, which is Columbia University’s long standing jazz station, a very important one to boot. Mel, a cantankerous, but lovable and completely honest guy really knew about drums, growing up in a club atmosphere in Buffalo, New York. He traces the evolution from Baby Dodds to Elvin with examples and complete knowledge. After years of trying to have it transcribed, John Riley managed to get all of it online at the Percussive Arts Society web site. This is well worth the time:

Jamey Aebersold sent me this from musicians have sharp brains:

Playing a musical instrument throughout life may help fight cognitive decline as we age. Older musicians perform better on cognitive tests than individuals who did not play an instrument, according to a new study published in the April issue of Neuropsychology. While much research has been done to determine the cognitive benefits of musical activity by children, this is the first study to examine whether those benefits can extend across a lifetime. “Musical activity throughout life may serve as a challenging cognitive exercise, making your brain fitter and more capable of accommodating the challenges of aging,” says lead researcher and clinical neuropsychologist Brenda Hanna-Pladdy of Emory University. “Since studying an instrument requires years of practice and learning, it may create alternate connections in the brain that could compensate for cognitive declines as we get older. ”The study enrolled 70 individuals age 60-83 who were divided into three groups. The participants either had no musical training, one to nine years of musical study or at least 10 years of musical training. All of the participants had similar levels of education and fitness, and didn’t show any evidence of Alzheimer’s disease.
Cognitive performance was measured by testing brain functions that typically decline as the body ages, and more dramatically deteriorate in neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. The high-level musicians who had studied the longest performed the best on the cognitive tests, followed by the low-level musicians and non-musicians, revealing a trend relating to years of musical practice. The high-level musicians had statistically significant higher scores than the non-musicians on cognitive tests relating to visuospatial memory, naming objects, and cognitive flexibility, or the brain’s ability to adapt to new information. “Based on previous research and our study results, we believe that both the years of musical participation and the age of acquisition are critical,” Hanna-Pladdy says. “There are crucial periods in brain plasticity that enhance learning, which may make it easier to learn a musical instrument before a certain age and thus may have a larger impact on brain development.” The preliminary study was correlational, meaning that the higher cognitive performance of the musicians couldn’t be conclusively linked to their years of musical study. Hanna-Pladdy, who has conducted additional studies on the subject, says more research is needed to explore that possible link.
Well, we knew that!! Nice to know there’s hope for us old timers!

TSUNAMI VIDEOS: Tragedy beyond belief and the power of nature still prevails above all:

Manhattan School of Music Graduating Master's Degree Class

Cornelia Street, NYC with Bob Garcia(drums), Drew Gress(bass), Dan Tepfer(piano); Dave Liebman Group in Canada-Maison du Festival, Rio Tinto Alcan-Montreal; Club Pardisio-Ottawa; Largo-Quebec City;
Dave Liebman Gorup at the Falcon, Marlboro, NY; Lineage with Mike Stephens(drums), Evan Gregor(bass), Bobby Avey (piano) at the Deer Head Inn, Delaware Water Gap, PA

JUNE: Duo with Vic Juris at the Caspe Terrace, Waukee, Iowa;

Sunday, February 27, 2011


I would imagine that people who read my newsletter are well aware of what is happening with the proposed funding cut for the NEA, which of course affects the Jazz Master’s Program, but more importantly, public radio and television. So the following is exactly what the cliché “preaching to the chorus” means, but these things need to be reiterated on the off chance that someone who is not aware of the situation can make their voice known in objection.
Considering that I was recently granted a cash award and the honor of Jazz Master by the NEA, one would expect that I would be in a positive frame of mind towards the U.S. government in matters cultural, which was and is temporarily true. On the other hand after being honored in January at a wonderful ceremony (more below), I, like all artists are very upset at this impending disaster. Specifically in the case of jazz, it is imperative that this program continue, that musicians who have given their life to jazz playing and teaching be recognized in their own country for the cultural contribution this music makes to the world at large. I have written extensively about why jazz is so important as a spiritual force beyond the music itself, and below I will be including some words from others about the place of music and art in our lives.
But there is more to this discussion than the music. From a philosophical standpoint, what is the role of government vis a vis the populace? These observations are not mine…I can’t tell you where I first saw the following points made. And obviously if we look at what is presently happening in the Middle East with their stultifying governments, a “philosophical” discussion is hardly realistic, but for the sake of argument I will go forward. In life, one should at least be cognizant of what is at the top of the mountain, if only to see oneself in relation to what is possible in the best of all worlds. The bottom line is that in a democracy we, the people, choose the members of our government to put principles to work. So we need to be clear as to what these principles of good government should be and how America is doing in these areas.

An elected government in a democracy has four responsibilities towards maintaining the well being of the people: defense, education, health and culture.

Defense…There’s no doubt that the U.S. government has been quite active in this field for the past several years. Depending upon your view, this activity could be at least to some degree be construed as offense, rather than defense, not too successfully as it seems. I am no expert on terrorism and the real threat that exists to us, but I have to note that sending in troops to countries like Iraq and Afghanistan with technology and equipment that is worth more than what a whole village or province earns in a year, has to be construed in some way as a bit over the top. It is the manufacturers of all the hardware and their cohorts who are profiting from these adventures, certainly not the men and women serving on the front line, nor our citizenry unless we allow the rampant paranoia, so well orchestrated by our government since 9/11 to cause us to believe that the people of these countries are an imminent threat to our well being, when they hardly have enough food, etc., to sustain day to day living needs. In any case, there is evil in the world and defense of a country’s well being is a legitimate and necessary function of government.

Education…Now that my daughter is officially part of the “higher education” system, a privilege for which I pay nearly $50,000 a year, it is clear to me and I’m sure anyone else in the same position that this whole education thing has truly gotten out of hand and appears to have no ceiling, in the financial sense at least. Let’s just look at the economics: fifteen to eighteen hours of class a week and more work to do out of the classroom along with housing and supposedly board, (although a lot of food is on her dime) for a total of thirty weeks. For the sake of argument let’s say that this is truly cost effective, all towards the intended result of a graduate being able to make a living in a satisfying, decent paying job that contributes to the world and all that good stuff. We all know that with the economic situation the way it is in America, obtaining a viable job, no matter the line of work, after graduation is not looking too positive these days, let alone a summer job to offset expenses. More importantly, what about those who cannot afford anything like college and will do qualify for the limited financial aid available in this period of belt tightening happening everywhere, especially on the state level of junior and community colleges. The truth is that higher education, which is mandatory for any kind of decent job opportunity, is out of reach for more people than ever and this isn’t a good sign for the future of democracy. The mythical haves and have-nots dividing line will only broaden unless a way for public education to thrive is supported.

Health…You would have to be from another planet to not realize what is going in this area. I don’t pretend to know the intricacies of Obama’s health plan but it does appear to me that keeping young adults longer on their parent’s policy while making sure that everyone is somehow covered cannot be bad. Again, my situation….I pay about $20,000 a year before one day of sickness, just in case a catastrophic situation arises. Once again, I can afford it so far and only have three people to worry about, but what about all the uninsured? And some jokers want to repeal these provisions? Once again it is the haves and have-nots scenario looming larger and larger as time goes by with health care being so out of reach for most people.

Culture…Finally what appears to be the most expendable of the “my government to fulfill wish list” raises its head. OK, they don’t want to fund the elites, the snobby effete people who dig jazz, public radio and public TV, etc. So why not mandate that funding must be used in downtown Detroit or like that…..but don’t cut cultural monies off. Culture raises the level of daily life of the populace in ways beyond mere entertainment. A citizenry needs art, executed by people whose lives are dedicated to expressing feelings, beauty and truth… some of the virtues of real art. Artists are not looking for handouts, just support towards bringing what appears on the surface to be non-essential to the people. Without support from up high, what is left is a waste land of cable TV, social networking, so-called smart phones, etc., for informing people about ideas and matters of the mind and spirit. Of course there is a place for this technology as we are witnessing in North Africa these very days as a means of promoting vital communication between people in spite of repression and censorship. But a society needs thoughtful and considered forums of discussion beyond the click of a key. It is a bad sign for any democracy if funding for culture is cut off and especially non-commercial avenues like public radio and TV.
The response to all these points is always on a financial level: “There’s no money left” and all that. It is hard to believe that with such a big corporation as the U.S. government is, there are no places where inefficiencies, existing loopholes, out and out larceny/graft/corruption and so forth are occurring and costing tons and tons of money. In the final result, it is about priorities and what is important beyond the here and now for the future. Are we just supposed to let the people we elected to represent our best interests allow matters to sink to the lowest common denominator without a fuss being raised. We need an educated, forward looking populace that insists on these priorities being straightened out and making their voices heard towards positive change. I am most concerned about the boundary between the haves and the have nots broadening to such a degree beyond what is happening today, that we will have in essence a two class system in what was supposed to be a place according to the Declaration of Independence where “all men are created equal.” This does not bode well for the future of any country.
A few supporting documents concerning the value of music:

From Jamey Aebersold, in a letter to a music teacher’s organization about some specific pedagogical points....the ending statements are apropos:
“Zoltan Kodaly said: ”Every healthy child would improvise if we’d let him.”
I have often felt our present day crisis in public music education is a direct reflection of institutions of higher learning not “keeping up with the times.” There is no valid reason students can’t be taught to read the notes on the page AND play the notes that lie in their minds musical ear.
People who learn to improvise often continue to make music their entire life. Music becomes their friend. They become a well-rounded person and music is a big contributor to their well being. Once they are encouraged to create music by improvising it’s like a missing piece of their life is found. The desire to create comes with each person’s first breath. They won’t all become pros but they CAN learn to improvise music.
Improvisation is where the fun is. Being forever tied to the notes on the page is a disservice to our many music school graduates. It doesn’t have to be this way. Music is for life.”

And this from Dr. Karl Paulnack, pianist and director of the music division at the Boston Conservatory, who gave this welcome address to the parents of incoming students at the Boston Conservatory on September 1, 2004:
“I have come to understand that music is not part of “arts and entertainment” as the newspaper section would have us believe. It’s not a luxury, a lavish thing that we fund from leftovers of our budgets, not a plaything or an amusement or a pass time. Music is a basic need of human survival. Music is one of the ways we make sense of our lives, one of the ways in which we express feelings when we have no words, a way for us to understand things with our hearts when we can’t with our minds. Some of you may know Samuel Barber’s heart-wrenchingly beautiful piece Adagio for Strings. If you don’t know it by that name, then some of you may know it as the background music which accompanied the Oliver Stone movie Platoon, a film about the
Vietnam War. If you know that piece of music either way, you know it has the ability to crack your heart open like a walnut; it can make you cry over sadness you didn’t know you had. Music can slip beneath our conscious reality to get at what’s really going on inside us the way a good therapist does.
I bet that you have never been to a wedding where there was absolutely no music. There might have been only a little music, there might have been some really bad music, but I bet you there was some music. And
something very predictable happens at weddings—people get all pent up with all kinds of emotions, and then there’s some musical moment where the action of the wedding stops and someone sings or plays the flute or
something. And even if the music is lame, even if the quality isn’t good, predictably 30 or 40 percent of the people who are going to cry at a wedding cry a couple of moments after the music starts. Why?! The Greeks. Music allows us to move around those big invisible pieces of ourselves and rearrange our insides so that we can express what we feel even when we can’t talk about it. Can you imagine watching Indiana Jones or Superman or Star Wars with the dialogue but no music? What is it about the music swelling up at just the right moment in ET so that all the softies in the audience start crying at exactly the same moment? I guarantee you if you showed the movie with the music stripped out, it wouldn’t happen that way. The Greeks: Music is the understanding of the relationship between invisible internal objects.
What follows is part of the talk I will give to this year’s freshman class when I welcome them a few days from now. The responsibility I will charge your sons and daughters with is this: “If we were a medical school, and you were here as a med student practicing appendectomies, you’d take your work very seriously because you would imagine that some night at two AM someone is going to waltz into your emergency room and you’re going to have to save their life. Well, my friends, someday at 8 PM someone is going to walk into your concert hall and bring you a mind that is confused, a heart that is overwhelmed, a soul that is weary. Whether they go out whole again will depend partly on how well you do your craft.
You’re not here to become an entertainer, and you don’t have to sell yourself. The truth is you don’t have anything to sell; being a musician isn’t about dispensing a product, like selling used Chevy's. I’m not an entertainer; I’m a lot closer to a paramedic, a firefighter, a rescue worker. You’re here to become a sort of therapist for the human soul, a spiritual version of a chiropractor, physical therapist, someone who works with our insides to see if they get things to line up, to see if we can come into harmony with ourselves and be healthy and happy and well.
Frankly, ladies and gentlemen, I expect you not only to master music; I expect you to save the planet. If there is a future wave of wellness on this planet, of harmony, of peace, of an end to war, of mutual understanding, of equality, of fairness, I don’t expect it will come from a government, a military force or a corporation. I no longer even expect it to come from the religions of the world, which together seem to have brought us as much war as they have peace. If there is a future of peace for humankind, if there is to be an understanding of how these invisible, internal things should fit together, I expect it will come from the artists, because that’s what we do.”

WHAT YOU CAN DO: below is the whole story and site address to let your voice be heard:
On Thursday, February 17, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to make a deep cut to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The vote added an additional $20.5 million cut on top of an already underlying $22.5 million reduction. If the U.S. House completes its work on this appropriations legislation (H.R.1) at the end of this week, the NEA's FY 2011 budget will have been reduced from $167.5 million to $124.5 million – a cut of 26% and the deepest cut to the NEA in 16 years.
Now we must turn our attention to the U.S. Senate - for they will consider this legislation perhaps as early as February 28th. Because members of Congress will be at home next week in observance of President's Day, we have provided a web address to register your voice. Media Alert for you to send to your local media outlets in support of the NEA. (paste into your browser)


: Obviously, a highlight for the recent past but also for my whole life. There were three components for the two days including a panel discussion, where basically my contribution for a question in that direction was a quick summary of the feature article above. The second component was the high point, a luncheon sponsored by the performing rights organization, BMI. All past recipients were invited as well as widows of previous awardees, which I think is a classy touch. My table was named for one of my recordings, “Miles Away” and along with Caris and Lydia, we sat with Ahmad Jamal, his wife and Kenny Barron. I have to tell you to be in the presence of forty past and present masters of jazz ranging from Jon Hendricks and Candido at ninety years old, to me being the youngest (beside the Marsalis clan who received a group award) was a heavy experience, because it is not often that I am the youngest in the room!! I basked in the glow of all that talent, history (not only of jazz but of America in the 20th century), camaraderie (Joe Wilder and Johnny Mandel reminiscing about being together in the trumpet section with Count Basie in 1941); and most of all the depth of humanity gathered in that room. The truth is that once a year this meeting by definition captures in a secular way some of the highest spiritual energy on the planet by having all these masters of the art in one room. (From my own personal standpoint this is enough of a reason to keep the Jazz Masters program intact.)
Finally, the actual award ceremony with Hubert Laws, Johnny Mandel, Orin Keepnews, the Marsalis clan and myself all being introduced, saying a few words and playing. Lee Konitz was scheduled to be my presenter but he called in a panic a few days before saying he lost his passport and probably wouldn’t make it. He said something really nice: “I practiced my speech for you more that the saxophone recently.” I asked David Baker who I know for decades through the Aebersold clinics and as the conductor for one of my personal favorite recordings that I did with strings, “Dedications” in 1979. (By the way Lee did make it to the ceremony but wanted David to do the presentation anyway.) I played with the orchestra from Gil Evans-Miles Davis’ Porgy and Bess, “Summertime” and There’s A Boat That’s Leaving For New York.” The link to see the ceremony is below…it was an excellent production by Jazz at Lincoln Center. I had a contingent of home boys present since I was the only awardee who is a native New Yorker. It was nice to have a posse out there….a great and memorable day for me and my family. I thank all those people who have helped me get there.

The link to the full show---(I go on at around 50 minutes):

Receiving award from the heads of NEA and BMI

JEN CONVENTION/AIRMEN OF NOTE: Representing my new Liebman Model soprano saxophone for the Keilwerth Company (still waiting for it to go into production), I attended the second Jazz Educators Network convention in New Orleans. Some of you know that JEN arose out of the ashes of the IAJE which went bankrupt a few years ago. This second meeting had two times more attendance than the year before and was low key and pleasant enough. I am sure it will continue to grow because there is a need and demand for such an event. I just hope that they will not over step themselves as the IAJE did, but this leadership truly seem to be watching their p’s and q’s. I got to play with the Air Force big band; the Airmen of Note which is an incredibly tight unit that made me fantasize what it it’s like to have rehearsal time. My big band gets together a few hours before a gig and it sounds like that in some ways. It can’t be denied that when you have time to practice and refine music, the level is raised. We do the best we can.

HUNGARY WITH GABOR GADO: I had a great gig in Budapest with a fantastic guitarist, Gabor Gado playing with a young French trio, Mathieu Donnarier, Sebastian Boisseau and Joe Quitzke who were really dealing. Fantastic musicians EVERYWHERE these days with their own stuff.

SAX SUMMIT/QUEST: February was quite a month with two separate weeks at NYC’s Birdland Club featuring Saxophone Summit (Joe Lovano, Ravi Coltrane, Billy Hart, Cecil McBee, Phil Markowitz) and Quest (Richie Beirach, Billy Hart, Ron McClure). As noted, the one common denominator in both groups besides me is drummer Jabali Billy Hart, without whom both of these group would not be the same. Billy just does it every night, every set and still continues to improve as do all the guys. If you get a chance to play with any regularity, it is inevitable that your and everyone around you will evolve up the food chain in skills.

Sax Summit at Birdland

DEER HEAD INN GIG: For the second time I had a chance to play with pianist Uri Caine who is a real killer, swinging and totally into the heat of the moment. Along with Mike Stephans and Tony Marino we played the entire “Love Supreme” recording, something I did only once decades ago with a Japanese pianist at the Knitting Factory. Needless to say this was quite different. What a compelling piece of music!

RECORDING PROJECTS: Somehow, with the jazz record business almost lifeless I managed to record with three of my major ensembles: Saxophone Summit, doing all original, quite free material which I think will be an unusual recording in the group’s history; with Quest we decided to concentrate on the mid ‘60s Miles Davis Quintet repertoire, recording some of the greatest compositions every written: Pinocchio, Neferttiti, Paraphenelia, Prince of Darkness, Vonetta, Fall and Hand Jive; finally as a result of a grant from Chamber Music America given to saxophonist Ellery Eskelin, we recorded with the group Different But The Same. Along with Ellery and myself, the group includes Tony Marino and the incredible Jim Black. The centerpiece of this recording was a suite by Ellery, a wonderfully constructed and conceived piece plus “Ghosts” by Albert Ayler and two originals of mine including “New Breed” from my Elvin Jones period. This recording it seems will appear on Hatology next year when we tour Europe.

This features trio with Richie Beirach, Lee Konitz and myself. I spoke about this in a newsletter a few months ago, concentrating on the experience of playing next to one of the greatest and most swinging melody players in jazz history.

“The site, the Internet Music Score Library Project, has trod in the footsteps of Google Books and Project Gutenberg and grown to be one of the largest sources of scores anywhere. It claims to have 85,000 scores, or parts for nearly 35,000 works, with several thousand being added every month. That is a worrisome pace for traditional music publishers, whose bread and butter comes from renting and selling scores in expensive editions backed by the latest scholarship. More than a business threat, the site has raised messy copyright issues and drawn the ire of established publishers.” Another nail in the coffin!!

ITINERARY (go to venue web sites for exact dates, times and info):
Classes and Dave Liebman Group performance at Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA; the Stone, NYC with poet Steve Dalachinsky; concert at Littlefield, Brooklyn, NY with Robert Garcia (drums), John Hebert (bass), Micheal Gentile (flute) and Daniel Kelly (piano); duo tour with pianist Jean Marie Machado in Europe; On The Corner at Theatre d’Orleans with Andy Emler (keyboards), Manu Codjia (guitar), Linley Marthe (el. bass), Badal Roy (tablas, percussion), Eric Echampard (drums).

APRIL: Workshop at the Global Institute, Berklee School , Boston, MA; performance with George Garzone and the Fringe, Lily Pad, Cambridge, MA; Sketches of Spain conducted by Jean Charles Richard at the Brucknerhaus, Linz, Austria; performance at the Carriage House Café, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY; performance with the CNY Jazz Arts Foundation, Carrier Theater, Syracuse, NY; Jazz Standard with Saxophone Summit playing Coltrane’s “Africa Brass” recording commemorating fifty years of Impulse Records; performance and workshops at the Tallinn Jazz Festival, Estonia; performance with the Brussels Big Band, Belgium.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


It certainly does appear that I have a record coming out every day in the past few months. The reality is that in a lot of cases the artist doesn’t have control of release dates, especially with older recordings, or the luxury of being exclusive with one label so inevitably releases can pile on top of each other. As well, in light of the economic state of the jazz record business, many artists have to accept live recordings as representative of their work. It’s true that even in the studio situation if the money is tight and time restricted because of that, the recording process is not that much different from live outside of the presence of an audience. I have done many records in six hours or less which essentially is a kind of live recording allowing no time for use of the studio situation to one’s advantage. But for the sake of this discussion let’s omit economics and assume that you have approximately two hours per tune, meaning for a standard CD length around two eight hour studio days. (This doesn’t include mixing and mastering which adds on at least another day.)

There is an inherent contradiction when recording jazz in the studio. The obvious fact that people can hear the music anywhere, anytime in the world forever certainly puts something special on any recording. The paradox is that we are capturing a moment(s) of musical time and magnifying it way beyond that time scale. Ideally, jazz, in fact any improvisational art, is predicated on being in absolute present time with no past or future impeding the flow of spontaneity or the artist’s ability to respond to what is happening in the moment around them. We cognize musical “spontaneity” as an ideal, as something special. However, spontaneous doesn’t mean that completely new and fresh material is necessarily being discovered, though that exists as a goal for most jazz players. The reality is that we are playing what we have discovered before, whether it be through the practicing process, or by accident, or a combination of events. It is the interpretative aspects of the music in the moment which is the first time event identified as spontaneous. Even in the case of the pre-be-boppers who often would play a set solo with exactly the same notes from performance to performance (like the classical artist), matters of interpretation (meaning phrasing, nuance, etc.) were different every time. To use a metaphor, magnifying a snapshot into a poster can be daunting and in the case of jazz, at least theoretically, paradoxical to its very ethos. On the other hand, why shouldn’t one moment be as representative of an individual’s playing as another, assuming the artist is skilled enough to be consistent (a skill gained by experience in the studio).

The obvious benefits of studio recording is what painters, writers and sculptors artistically enjoy as a given….the opportunity to refine, correct and change one’s art towards the artist’s vision. It is in the studio where we can actually realize a piece representing the kind of diligence and care an artist should and can give to his work and to the audience. The other reality is that you cannot hide under the harsh lights of the studio where everything is heard to the smallest detail. The studio is a great leveler of talent…everything is scrutinized. However, in our era with technology so advanced, it is possible to seamlessly alter everything about the music to such a high degree that there is the inherent danger of over correction…. a problem of too many possibilities. In other words, if I have the capability of making something “perfect,” how can I resist using it? The sad truth in our era is that a listener cannot be sure that what they are hearing is what was actually played because there are so many ways to alter the past. Of course this is ultimately an individual artist’s decision but a very important one, especially for an art form that prizes spontaneity. Let me remain positive and just say that editing in our time affords the artist a chance to make a truly grand presentation, to present a concept, to mull over details… all of which hopefully contribute to a higher level of enjoyment from the listener as well as encouraging the artist to evolve further.

Though it is less likely that a performer uses extensive editing on a live recording compared to the studio, you can never be sure. Putting that reality aside, recording live is as close as you can get to hearing the essence of jazz….spontaneous-in the moment playing which for my aesthetic is the absolute highest musical goal. What I am looking for when I hear myself is a solo that is technically beyond reproach; ideas that are musically sound and coherent; interaction with the other musicians at the highest level; and an emotional depth that the listener can feel. That is a tall order which is realistically beyond most of us, but represents the highest goal of jazz improvisation for me. Recording live can be a nerve wracking experience because you cannot go back and change or fix things without affecting the very premise of what a live recording is supposed to be.

In summary the challenges of both kinds of recording are many and for the jazz artist it is mandatory to live in both worlds. As I said earlier, because of the current state of affairs in jazz recording, much of what is being released are live recrodings, a reality we as musicians have to live with. But we must persevere in attempting to find ways of recording under the white lights of the studio, using the tools afforded us in that environment to elevate our art.

One thing is sure…for myself and my peers it was the live recordings of Miles, Coltrane, Bill Evans, etc., that were passed around, many of which recorded in the ‘60s, as tenth generation reel to reel copies, evolving into cassettes and finally CDs that had the most effect on our musical development. The Coltrane “One Up, One Down” track live from the Half Note in NYC was a treasure as were various live Miles Davis concerts. “Live at the Plugged Nickel” was like gold (first released in Japan only as a double LP) and I wore out Trane’s “Live at Birdland.” There were some artists like Sonny Rollins, known for not being terribly comfortable in the studio, for whom you went primarily to their live recordings to hear their latest work. On the other hand those of us who saw Coltrane live witnessed first hand a group that was completely different on vinyl than live. (Refer to the You Tube of “Vigil” discussed below).

So what does this come down to? As an artist we have to deal with what is given us in our time. But for the serious listener the only way to really know how someone plays is to hear them live a few nights in succession without the benefits of hindsight (editing. Then you can truly judge themusic. Studio recordings are another, parallel reality to be taken in account on its own merits.

CHROMATIC HARMONY AND MELODY MASTER CLASS-AUG 2011:Go to my web site ( under Education/Master Classes for details

That said, this new release was doe on a spur of the moment with my Dutch rhythm section, drummer Eric Ineke and bassist Marius Beets, with whom I have recorded two other “repertoire” CDS featuring the compositions of Kurt Weill and Alec Wilder. Some of my fans might remember a streak of recordings I did in the ‘90s for the Italian label, Red Records, which were all repertoire recordings. Arranging the music of composers is something I have been doing for decades and really enjoy. This present CD was spontaneously played and recorded one night on tour in lieu of the Wilder and Weill music we were promoting at that time. The actual taping was done casually but turned out to be more than acceptable and a nice addition to my recorded work. Here are some of the liner notes:

For many years till the late ‘80s, with a few exceptions I purposely refrained from recording Coltrane tunes for the obvious reason that I needed and wanted to escape his titanic ( and positive) influence on my life and music. It is well known among those who have heard me speak in classes or interviews that seeing Trane live in the ‘60s was my epiphany. By the late ‘80s I felt ready to tackle it somewhat of my own terms, which I did on “Homage To Coltrane” (Owl Records) in 1987 and have recorded several Trane compositions since then, especially from the late period. In the case of this CD, the vibe was to just play the music for an evening and have fun. With such a strong bass-drum team as Marius and Eric are, I knew that whatever transpired it would certainly swing…so no arrangements, just the heads and blow. There is nothing new contained herein but it does reflect the absorption of years of study of Trane’s music and a kind of homage to one particular aspect of his massive style.

Coltrane had a different approach to playing the blues than others from his generation as well as from his usual approach to chord change playing. In a way Trane was like an old blues cat who couldn’t give up the strong pull of the basic I-IV-V progression. This is notable in light of so many intricate altered blues statements that existed like Bird’s “Blues for Alice” or even “All Blues” which were compositional variations of the format. And there is of course the incessant cry of the blues scale itself to deal with. Just imagining how many variations exist on that basic sound is impressive.

For the beboppers, the blues was an old friend who had to be visited, almost as an obligation. There is so much in the blues that transfers to the standard song repertoire: the tonic, sub dominant, dominant relationships of the harmony; the call and response aspect of the form; the lyrical (vocal) intimations of the melodies; the universal appeal of the blues. When Trane played the blues you really GOT IT. He wrote a lot of blues in different keys, sometimes with different substitute harmonies but always true to the integrity of the blues sound. One of his most influential solos, the classic live track from the Village Vanguard of “Chasin’ the Trane” is a great example of his commitment to the basic I-IV-V blues model as is “Pursuance” in a completely different way a few years later. Of course there is the landmark recording “Coltrane Plays The Blues,” a primer for anyone interested in his music.

To me when I hear the blues played well, it is an affirmation of the human spirit…neither sad nor happy…just a slice of life on this planet that all humanity feels and lives through beyond time, place, culture and ethnicity. In broad terms people have much more in common than not-the life/death, young/old, love/loss cycles that we all pass through…the general “yin/yangness” of it all. The blues is a universal declaration of what it is to be alive in the moment.”

OLD WINE-NEW BOTTLES-recordings available as downloads only

This is a live recording from 2008-09 done at the Deer Head Inn (Delaware Water Gap, PA) and Roberto's Woodwind Shop (NYC). The group plays three arrangements of Ornette Coleman tunes from their recording "Turnaround" (Best Record of the Year 2010-German Jazz Journalists) plus a long version of Vic Juris' "Victim" which features some sonic stretching out by the group, which has been together for 20 years. Communication par excellente!
As is the case with many jazz players, there is often a big difference between studio and live recordings, not quality-wise but obviously as far as excitement and spontaneous creativity are concerned. These two venues were as relaxed a setting as you can get with small and attentive audiences, so no show, just the music! The three Ornette tunes were recorded on “Turnaround” (Jazz Werkstatt) which won the prize for jazz record of the year (2010) from the German music critics. Juris’ “Victim” has been played and recorded previously by the band over our twenty year history, but this particular version goes into textural directions that appear to be the direction the band is heading towards as I write these notes. Keeping a band together for decades demands constant reevaluation to inspire both the listeners and musicians. Tony, Vic and Marko give their all every time. My appreciation to these great artists for their commitment and musicianship.

Welcome to the Liebman-Beirach live recording archive. For most jazz musicians there is a significant difference between live and studio recordings, hopefully not qualitatively, but in terms of energy and inspiration. This is definitely true of the music that Richie Beirach and I have played together over the decades. We began together in the late '60s jamming in my loft in Manhattan, putting together Free Life Communication (musician’s cooperative), apprenticing with masters, listening, talking and exploring music towards constructing a sound that would reflect our influences, the times we lived in and whatever contribution we might ultimately make to the jazz legacy---in summary, the past, present and future.
Over the years we have played in three different configurations: the Duo and quartets Lookout Farm and Quest. Throughout you will hear certain recurring themes, albeit with a particular emphasis depending upon which setting. We have always looked back at the jazz repertoire interpreting it in our own manner. There have been traces of free jazz, fusion and world music along with an ongoing interest in the harmonic implications garnered from contemporary classical music of the 20th century, all integrated into an improvised jazz context. These commonalities can be observed over the four decades of our collaboration.
As in any recorded jazz, multiple takes of a tune are of interest because they can and often do differ so much from each other. It goes without saying that the sound quality on some of the tracks is less than desirable but we felt the music itself took precedence. A few of these tracks have been previously released on the Select Series from Mosaic Records but available here for the first time as downloads.

Dave Liebman, RIchie Beirach, Al Foster, Frank Tusa, Randy Brecker
Originally recorded in 1978 and released as an album on the famed Artist's House label, this collection features several nights at the famous Village Vanguard in New York with a stellar cast of musicians who comprised some of the most notable of the young generation in the Apple at the time, and had been playing together in many different combinations during the preceding decade. Playing standards with a modern twist, the energy in the club is palpable and electric.

This duo has its place in jazz history secured since their beginnings in the early 1970s playing in Liebman's loft on West 19th Street in NYC and served as the foundation of the groups Lookout Farm from the '70s and Quest in the '80s. In particular, the duo (reunited with new recordings) developed an harmonic concept blending the jazz language with 20th century modern classical innovations. These recordings of standards and originals span a sixteen year period and bear witness to their development.

Dave Liebman, Richie Beirach, Jeff Williams, Frank Tusa
After Dave Liebman had done his apprenticeship with Elvin Jones and Miles Davis, he formed his first group as a leader which musically represented a mixture of the newest trends at the time being explored by jazz musicians-Indian music, fusion and free jazz--all played with a spirit reminiscent of their strongest influences, John Coltrane and Miles. This is eclecticism at its boldest which resulted in the band being voted number one for "Group Deserving Of Wider Recognition" by Downbeat Magazine in 1976.

QUEST LIVE:1988,1991
Dave Liebman, Richie Beirach, Billy Hart & Ron McClure

The famous quartet is featured here in live performances which capture the incredible communication that the quartet (now re-united with new recordings) demonstrated during their tenure in the 1980s.

NEA MASTERS OF JAZZ AWARD: I will be presented with the award at the Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center on Jan 11. My presenter is Lee Konitz and it will be on the radio live at 7:30PM Eastern Standard Time (U.S.) at: (satellite radio)
and (internet)

INTERVIEWS IN DOWNBEAT AND JAZZ TIMES: With the Jazz Masters Award I have been given a couple of nice profiles in the December issue of Jazz Times and the January issue of Downbeat. You can find these interviews and others at my site under PRESS MATERALS-INTERVIEWS

ALL ABOUT JAZZ-NEW YORK BEST OF THE YEAR: I did pretty well this year in the Apple in five categories:
-Chosen as one of the five Musicians of the Year
-“Turnaround-the Music of Ornette Coleman” by the Dave Liebman Group was named one of the Tribute Recordings of the Year
- Lookout Farm's gig at Birdland in February was named one of the Performances of the Year
- “Relevance” (with Evan Parker and Tony Bianco) was named one of the Albums of the Year
-“Quest for Freedom” (HR Big Band with Richie Beirach arranged by Jim McNeely) was named among the Best of 2010 Honorable Mentions

Also from the Penguin Guide of Music the Quest recording “Redemption” (HAtology) was selected as one of the Best Albums

EUROPE TOUR WITH DL GROUP: My group had an intense 12 day tour of Europe, trudging around in the snow and cold which was everywhere around us. We played some of the music from the award winning “Turnaround-Music of Ornette Coleman” as well as other material emphasizing a more electric approach than we have done in years-electric bass, myself exclusively on soprano sax with a small effects box and Vic increasingly using pedals and reverbs, etc. working steadily always confirms the mantra that having a steady group is irreplaceable for musical self improvement and that there is no substitute for playing every night for paying customers to make one feel close to their instrument. This all adds up to a higher level of audience concentration, acceptance an approval. They can feel the difference of a group that has been together for awhile….in our case this next year will be the 20th.
Three excerpts from the tour:

Presentation of award for Best Jazz Recording 2010-German Jazz Critics:Uli Blobel, owner of Jazz Werkstatt and Bert Noglik from German Critics Panel

MEDITATIONS SUITE WITH SAXOPHONE SUMMIT AND ORCHESTRA: On the anniversaries of Coltranes’s recording of this seminal piece (Nov,1965) I like to find a way to perform it somewhere in the world. This last November for the European tour of Saxophone Summit we played the suite every night for our six concerts. You can imagine how deep it got with Lovano, Coltrane, Hart, McBee and Markowitz exploring this special music on a night to night basis. As well celebrating this special anniversary, the Dave Liebman Big Band leader, saxophonist Gunnar Mossblad who has collaborated with me on many works over the decades (including a big band version of “Meditations”) wrote an arrangement of the suite for the studio orchestra at Manhattan School of Music. Studio orchestra means a full symphonic orchestra with the addition of a jazz rhythm and saxophone section, so you get the best of both, This was a spectacular arrangement conduced by Justin Dicioccio with 85 musicians and Randy Brecker alongside me in the solo positions. The power of Gunnar’s arrangement was incredible and Justin really got these mostly straight laced young classical players to loosen up a bit for some great moments of group free improvisation. And it is the free improv alongside the beautiful melodies from the suite that gives the music its special yin-yang character. I hope we can find a way to release the recording to the general public in the near future.

PRACTICE DVD (Aebersold Publications): Taped from a lecture I did in Dublin, Ireland (thanks to Ronan Guilfoyle) this is a succinct one hour presentation on the basics of good productive practicing. I have found out more than a few times over the years that most people do not know how to practice. This is truer in jazz than classical music where at least the goal is clear, to learn, memorize and master a written piece of music. In jazz, it is a bit more ambiguous because it is impossible to practice spontaneity, the core of improvising. Assuming that an individual is trying to be diligent there are some essential guidelines that lead to effective use of one’s time towards the goal of self improvement. In fact, learning how to practice or shall I say reinforcing positive behavior is a tool for life, no matter what the material.

From the DVD notes:
"The goal of practicing, no matter the activity, is to transform behavior from the realm of mechanics and technique to learned instinct, employing little if any conscious thought. This means the mind is free to dwell on matters of content, aesthetics and expression. Specifically, practicing an art form demands rigor and creativity acting in tandem. In the final result, an artist’s work reflects the depth of their practicing process."

• Where and when to practice
• Value of maintaining a practice diary
• Use of books
• Instrumental technique first
• Ritual
• Organization
• Prioritization
• Length of practice period
• Highlighting weaknesses

A true giant, Taylor was way ahead of the educational curve decades ago. What he did towards raising the level of acceptance of jazz for the general public is unmatched in our time. Billy realized early on that you could explain jazz somehow, someway, therefore opening the door for people to feel comfortable in a milieu that could be construed as a secret and esoteric society. He truly understood that knowledge is central to comprehension and what inevitably follows is acceptance. All jazz musicians and jazz fans owe Mr. Taylor a gigantic dept for furthering our cause.

JAMES MOODY: What can you say? First of all, he was a jazz musician of the first order beyond "Moody's Mood" which of course was his trademark song. For me, it was his flute playing that was so authentically be-bop, played on a very difficult instrument to exert control. But Moody had more going than many of his contemporaries because of his naturally ebullient personality, which was key to his communicative success with an audience. Further was James' unquenchable thirst to learn more and be on top of contemporary trends. I remember one of my early tours with the Elvin Jones Group (1972) as part of a George Wein Newport style armada trudging throughout Europe. Moody was part of the "Young Giants of Jazz" with Sonny Stitt, Roy Haynes and others of his generation. James couldn't get enough of asking my partner Steve Grossman and myself about pentatonic and diminished scale licks, Giant Steps and other Coltraneisms that we were playing, then writing them down and discussing the material. At one point, Illinois Jacquet yelled something in the bus to the three of together in the back to the effect of why bother with that "bull...." James just laughed and told us to ignore him. He was a true artist, a lover of life and a gentle loving human being.

LIVE COLTRANE:From the European tour in 1965 this clip of the Coltrane Quartet with Elvin Jones, Jimmy Garrison and McCoy Tyner is as close as it gets to what it felt like to hear the group live as I did so many times. This track in particular shows the band in that particular year when John recorded like crazy and as the year came to a close after recording “Meditations” changing the personnel of the group to his wife Alice, saxophonist Pharoah Saunders and drummer Rashied Ali. “Vigil,” beginning with a duo between Elvin and Trane gives a feeling of a man in transition; just a little motif that Trane and the group work out to an astounding level of intensity and freedom:

ON THE SOPRANO SAX: Sam Newsome is making some waves on the little horn and dedicates a blog to it….very interesting comments:

MUSIC FROM WATER GLASSES: How much practice would it take to do this:

TRISTANO ROBOTS: Funny and quite accurate in many ways:


UNBELIEVABLE STORY FROM THE HOLOCAUST: To everyone about the power of music, this is something really special. One statement stands out:
"Fill your head as much as you can because it can't be taken away, especially music."
Watch this and you will understand the depth of that statement. (Thanks to my oldest musical compatriot Mike Garson for sharing this.)

ABOUT FRANK FOSTER:One of the nicest guys and great saxophonists has become ill and needs some help:

ITINERARY (consult local listings for details and dates)

JANUARY:Jazz Educators Convention in New Orleans-performances with the Airmen of Note and Chuck Owens’ Surge; Snug Harbor Club with Jason Marsalis, Steve Masakowski, James Singleton; NEA Masters of Jazz Presentation at Lincoln Center, NYC featuring performance of excerpts from “Porgy and Bess;” Masters of Jazz Presentation at Lincoln Center, NYC; Concert with guitarist Gabor Gado at the Palace of Arts, Budapest, Hungary; Dave Liebman Group at Symphony Hall Jazz Caberet Upstairs, Allentown,PA; gig at Elk Creek and Aleworks with drummer Phil Haynes and organist Steve Adams; Milheim, PA

FEBRUARY: Birdland, NYC with Saxophone Summit (Joe Lovano, Ravi Coltrane, Cecil McBee, Billy Hart, Phil Markowitz); Saxophone Summit at Lafayette College,Easton ,PA; with Uri Caine, Mike Stephens and Scott Colley at the Deer Head Inn, Delaware Water Gap PA; Birdland with QUEST (Richie Beirach, Ron McClure, Billy Hart)