Wednesday, April 4, 2007



PLAYING DUO: In the last period of work I did a few gigs with pianist Bobby Avey playing the music from a new release titled “Vienna Dialogues”(Zoho) where we performed our adaptations of some of the classical repertoire ranging from Debussey to Handel to Mahler. As well I did a European tour with Marc Copland-thirteen consecutive concerts. Playing duo is one of the most challenging situations for me because there is literally nowhere to hide. Every note is heard clearly without a rhythm section to obscure things and there is real opportunity to play very soft and delicately, especially with a pianist like Copland who has such control of the soft pedal. The intimacy is very concentrated and I think quite personal for an audience to be part of. And of course, in Europe, the concentration from the audience is intense and perfect.

COLTRANE PANEL AND CONCERT: As part of the four day celebration of Coltrane at the Manhattan School of Music where I teach my chromatic approach, one night was dedicated to a panel consisting of Roy Haynes, Rashied Ali, Jimmy Heath, Ira Gitler, Ashley Khan and myself. It was fantastic to have two of Trane’s drummers discussing what it was like to play with John. Roy said that he could do anything that was in his head because John had such secure time. Jimmy Heath told a story of how he took Coltrane home between a matinee performance (late afternoon) and the evening sets to for a home cooked meal in Philadelphia where they grew up together. Trane asked if he could use the practice room and shedded between the gigs, just pausing to eat a bit. The practice stories are legendary and of course shows how Trane made such incredible progress in such a short period. Also I was thrilled to play Gunnar Mossblad’s big band arrangement of the “Meditations Suite” which I will be performing with Sax Summit at New York’s Symphony Space on Tranes’ birthday, September 23, 2007. Getting a student band to play collective free music was quite an accomplishment for these young musicians under the direction of Justin DiCiocchio.

BRUSSELS JAZZ ORCHESTRA: I had a good three concert tour with this fantastic big band who are always ready to rehearse and really work on the music. It’s such a pleasure to land overseas, get on the stage and be able to hit with all the prior work completed to such a high level.


From time to time, I devote some time to writing new books as I have just done for my 60th birthday year. Two books for Jamey Aebersold Publications were written with the invaluable help of a former student and wonderful saxophonist, Matt Vashlishan. The other book is for Advance Music and available through Caris Music Services. I have a few more planned for this year also.

SAXOPHONE BASICS: A Daily Practice Guide: This is a handy, shirt pocket size pamphlet that basically distills the information from my larger book on the subject “Developing A Personal Saxophone Sound” (Dorn Publications) and DVD, “The Complete Guide to Saxophone Sound Production” (Caris Music) into essential guidelines for practicing on a daily level. From putting the horn together to posture, to breathing and warm up exercises, along with a detailed outline of all the overtone exercises one would need for a lifetime in sequential order, this is a good book to have around for daily reference.

HOW TO APPROACH STANDARDS CHROMATICALLY-TECHNIQUES OF SUPERIMPOSITION: Prompted by a suggestion from my wife, Caris, to create something more basic and comprehensible than the material in my “Chromatic Approach to Jazz Melody and Harmony,” I decided to take all of the various methods of superimposition (approximately a dozen) that are described in the book and apply one method per tune. Most importantly for this purpose, the tunes are basic ones from the jazz repertoire, used as a setting for me to improvise over within one superimposition method per tune. The accompanying CD therefore includes pre-existing playalong tracks from the Aebersold series on tunes like “Satin Doll,” “Girl From Ipanema,” Take the A Train” and other “chestnuts”. Included in the text are my superimposed progressions as well as transcriptions of many of the performances. Of course I am playing literally “against” the recording meaning there is no harmonic response or initiation of chromatic superimpositions emanating from the track itself, which of course in a real time playing situation would hopefully not be the case. Though it may appear to be contrived, this book makes the point that sensible and logical chromatic superimposition can sound good even in the most conservative of settings, a handy tool for keeping harmonic interest going.

ANTHOLOGY: This is a collection of over fifty original compositions spanning the past thirty plus years including tunes from all the genres I have recorded in: be bop contrafacts, chamber duo and chromatic harmonic settings, fusion, free and world music tunes. The notation includes exact voicings for most of the songs, an essay on composing, as well as notes concerning the inspirations for each of the songs. The book is beautifully printed by Advance Music. I worked very hard on this collection and am indebted to Hans Jurg Rudiger, the copyist for his patience as I am very meticulous about notation.

My present group is fifteen years old this past fall with members Vic Juris and Tony Marino with me from the beginning and Marko Marcinko since 2000. I am eternally grateful to these guys (and to past members Phil Markowitz and Jamey Haddad) for their dedication and musicianship. I would not be the same person without them and the music we play. Though we haven’t had the greatest of commercial success, the communication we have together and recordings we have done have made this a pinnacle of my creative life. The following review really captures what we do and coincidentally the performance was at our home base, the Deer Head Inn in Deleware Water Gap, PA.:

The David Liebman Group at the Deerhead Inn

November 6, 2006 by Vic Schermer
David Liebman is a preeminent jazz saxophonist who has sustained a top-of-the-line reputation for four decades. He embodies a rare combination of discipline, knowledge, technique, and passion. Simply put, he is a true and dedicated master. Throughout his career, he has kept growing, evolving, listening, playing, composing, teaching, seeking new understanding, and pushing the limits of the instrument and of musical expression. His music compels the listener to think as well as feel. Each phrase and line emerges from his horn as a concept, a question, and answer. Then, kaleidoscopically, he goes on to the next series, so that an integrated composition evolves from the many parts as they emerge. When you attend one of his performances or listen to his rich library of recordings, you never know where the creative impulse is going to take him, so you may sometimes be stunned or even puzzled by the corner of the labyrinth onto which he has turned.

For Liebman, as for other jazz greats, a steady working group is an artistic necessity. To quote from his Arkadia Records biography, he “has spent his whole career playing with some of the best in the business. He spent extensive periods as a member of the Miles Davis and Elvin Jones groups. As a leader, he has been associated since 1970 with a succession of extraordinary groups from Open Sky Trio to Lookout Farm to Quest, each of which has framed a distinct phase of his musical evolution. His present ensemble, The Dave Liebman Group, was formed in 1991. Pursuing a very eclectic contemporary style, the band has toured Europe, Japan and Israel, and recorded seven CDs. Each member brings to the group a wide range of talents, which enables the music to move in many directions.” According to his former drummer, Jamey Haddad, who recently left Liebman to tour with Paul Simon, “Dave is the most inspired and hardest working musician I know, comfortable enough in his own skin to tolerate me! Dave not only gives me the space I need, but he digs, mines and helps to refine the musical personalities in all the musicians he comes into contact with.” The group’s new drummer, Marko Marcinko, would certainly echo these sentiments. A hard-driving percussionist in the Art Blakey tradition, yet with a contemporary flair and mind-boggling technique, Marcinko brings a dynamic energy to the Liebman group and can go in any direction the group and the music take him. With Liebman, guitarist Vic Juris, bassist Tony Marino, and Marcinko, the David Liebman Group gave a stunning, vibrant, and swinging performance at the Deerhead Inn on a fall evening in late October.

But the event was not without its vicissitudes! Juris was delayed in a traffic jam while driving out to the Water Gap on the infamous Route 80, so the evening had to begin with a trio. Dave handled the circumstance with grace, but later told me somewhat apologetically that “it was the first time in fifteen years that one of our guys came late.” Nonetheless, the group minus one took the occasion to do some standards like “You and the Night and the Music” and “Milestones.” Not that they played them in any “standard” way. Liebman seemed to use the situation to flex his chops with various sounds reminiscent of saxophone greats from Coltrane to Sonny Rollins to Stan Getz, switching around his phrasings in ways that seemed to evoke a history of jazz saxophone. Only Liebman could pull this off and make coherent music of it. He went everywhere it was possible to go with both the soprano and tenor sax, and yet there was a wonderful and lyrical continuity to it all. This was helped along by Marino’s passionate bass playing and Marcinko’s steady and powerful rhythm. It will be interesting to see where this eclectic group will go musically with Marcinko’s very distinct hard bop style.

When Juris came on board, the group did a Liebman original called “A Brite Piece,” recorded with Elvin Jones in the early ’70’s. The contrast with the “trio” was striking. Juris shifted the whole atmospheric of the group, lending it a funky feeling and utilizing amplification and reverberation to create a panoply of sustained chords mixed with lines reminiscent of Wes Montgomery. Next, the group executed an extraordinary performance of “Stardust,” in which Liebman used his consummate harmonic skills to create some of the most beautiful rapid-fire improvisations I’ve ever heard, including a passage which sounded like several contrapuntal lines combined into one. The energy generated by Liebman led the group into a kind of overdrive such as occurs when you throw a sports car into a lower gear at high speed. Marino’s bass solos took on unsparing emotionality, and Marcinko let loose on drums and various hand-held percussion insturuments. With a composition called “Anubis,” in which Liebman played an intro on a small bamboo flute, the suggestion of a Middle Eastern belly dancer combined with “all stops out” expressions in various jazz idioms created an almost unbearable intensity. Only Liebman’s musical discipline brought just the measure of control to bring the two sets to a barely-restrained and utterly magnificent climax. The otherwise sedate “family” audience applauded and cheered ecstatically.

Earlier, the evening was given a tender touch when Dave introduced his fourteen-year old daughter Lydia, a vocal student, and brought her on with the group to sing Jobim’s “Dindi,” made famous of course by Astrud Gilberto. Lydia has a beautiful, sultry voice and a precision she must have learned from her father. She did a wonderful rendition which I’m sure would have pleased Mr. Jobim had he heard it. I was also very touched by the rapport of father and daughter in this situation.

The Deerhead Inn is a jazz venue which is owned by dedicated new management and offers a unique combination of a very hip music joint with family values, a warm, friendly staff, and the bucolic casualness of a country inn. No wonder guys like Liebman, Keith Jarrett, John Coates, Jr., and Phil Woods are more than happy to perform there whenever they can. If you city folks from the New York and Philadelphia areas want a relaxed day or weekend in the country combined with some of the best jazz you’ll hear anywhere, the Deerhead is the place to go. And they have overnight accommodations as well.

Recordings by the Dave Liebman Group

Back on the Corner Tone Center (2007): For this unique recording in relation to the Dave Liebman Group, guitarist Mike Stern and bassist Anthony Jackson were added to the line-up. The music suggests Lieb's tenure with Miles Davis, most notably the seminal "On the Corner" recording. Featuring two Miles Davis compositions from that period and Lieb originals, the addition of the guitar and bass to the quartet sound adds a whole new dimension.
Conversation - Sunnyside (2003): Featuring the newest addition, drummer Marko Marcinko along with Vic Juris and Tony Marino this CD shows the group in transition with a wide mix of material from an odd meter arrangement of "On A Clear Day" to free group playing as well as several lyrical tunes. Also featured is Caris Visentin on oboe and english horn. This was recorded immediately after a midwest tour and reflects the strong "conversational" aspects of the group's sound.
In A Mellow Tone Zoho (2001): Recorded with original drummer/percussionist Jamey Haddad, this features an assortment of material from the re-arranged “My Heart Goes On” to the free form “Change Up” and the funky “Romulan Ale”. This is very representative of the quartet minus keyboard instrumentation that began in 1997.
A Walk in The Clouds-Liebman Plays Puccini - Arkadia(2001): Another unusual arrangement of classic material with the group plus guest artists including Phil Woods and others.
The Unknown Jobim - GMN (2001): A collection of unique arrangements of some lesser-known Jobim compositions.
Thank You John - Arkadia (1997): Tunes by or written for Coltrane featuring Arkadia artists Benny Golson, Billy Taylor and the Liebman Group playing "My Favorite Things" and "I Want To Talk About You". Liebman's solo on "My Favorite Things" received a Grammy Nomination for "Best Instrumental Performance" in 1998.
The Meditations Suite - Arkadia (1997): A live recording of the Coltrane piece (1965) from Symphony Space in New York City, December 1995, featuring the Dave Liebman Group with guests Billy Hart, Cecil McBee, Tiger Okoshi and Caris Visentin.
New Vista - Arkadia (1997): The recording features the Dave Liebman Group along with percussionist Cafe playing Brazillian inspired music and including renditions of Jobim's "Zingaro", the classic love song, "Estate", and a unique rendition of "Beauty and the Beast" from the Disney movie.
Voyage - Evidence (1996): An eclectic collection of originals and standards similar in concept to Turn It Around.
Return of the Tenor: Standards - Double Time (1996): Featuring the group playing standards in a straight jazz style and Lieb returning to the tenor saxophone after over fifteen years concentrating on the soprano.
Songs for My Daughter - Soul Note (1994): A collection of originals dedicated to the first child of David and Caris Liebman, Lydia, using the group in a mostly acoustic fashion reminiscent of the classic ECM sound.
Miles Away - Owl/EMI (1994)): A journey through the Miles Davis landscape from bebop (Boplicity, Solar), through the modal and Gil Evans period (All Blues, Pan Piper), into the 60s (Fall, 81), to the fusion era (Code M.D.). Each arrangement is unique and personal similar to Liebman's renditions of Coltrane compositions on his acclaimed Homage to Coltrane (Owl-EMI 1987).
Turn it Around - Owl/EMI (1992): A mostly electric collection of originals showcasing composition and contemporary colors through the group's various instrumental combinations.


SAXOPHONE MASTER CLASS: I am sending out a separate e mail to all past participants who have attended my annual Master Class held at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania which is celebrating the 20th year this August. Anyone who might not hear from me since it was years ago and before e mail, please contact me directly or go to my site under Saxophone Master Class to see the details of the week dedicated to the music of John Coltrane with a final performance of “Meditations”.

ON TRANE: Some comments of mine for a new site called Traneamentary; also note on my web site addresses to find a bunch of You Tube and Google clips of me with Miles Davis:

MY MOST INFLUENTIAL TRACKS: I had a fantastic interview in Bremen, Germany for the radio there (thanks Arne). The idea was to trace my musical growth through a selection of the most influential recordings on my development. This is slightly different than the typical “desert island” question. It really made me think about exactly what music shaped my life. Here’s the list with some comments:

Crescent-Coltrane: - poetry, passion, intensity and an incredibly swinging rhythm section at a slow and relaxed tempo, this performance sounds like it was written out beforehand, as it is so perfectly conceived.
One Up and One Down-Coltrane: captures the feeling of what it was to hear the classic quartet live in front of your eyes-beyond a tsunami and ultimately life affirming in its honesty and energy.
Afro Blue-Coltrane Live at Birdland: another track recorded live, this time on soprano which really conjures spirits of all kinds up to the surface.
So What-Kind of Blue-Miles: THE classic modal track of all time that set the stage for most of my life’s harmonic research.
Witch hunt-Wayne Shorter from Speak No Evil: once again with Elvin Jones on drums, featuring perfect solos from Wayne, Freddie and Herbie all demonstrating with economic note choices and incredible swing.
Maiden Voyage-Herbie Hancock: suspended chord harmony that invites lyricism and grace from all the soloists involved as well as a landmark harmonic tune at the time.
Passion Dance-McCoy Tyner from The Real McCoy: burning, chromatic McCoy with gutsy, swinging Joe Henderson and again Elvin Jones doing the THING he did so well. Inner Urge-Joe Henderson: an unusual and challenging chord progression played to perfection by Joe and the band.
Concerto D’Aranjuez-Miles Davis from Sketches of Spain: from my favorite all time recording, this incredibly evocative arrangement and performance surpasses idiom, style and time immersing the listener directly into the rich culture of Spain.
Four-Miles Davis from Four and More: the burning MD rhythm section of the 60’s with Tony Williams, Herbie Hancock and Ron Carter, storm at a blazing tempo changing meters and feel at will.
Sonny Moon for Two-Sonny Rollins from Live at the Village Vanguard: the whole saxophone tradition is on view in one of the most rhythmically interesting solos ever heard-again with Elvin Jones. In fact, for all these ten jazz tracks, Elvin is the drummer on seven of them!!
Adagio For Strings-Samuel Barber: the essence of lyrical beauty where everything is right, in order and balanced; poignant and dramatic almost beyond one’s ability to perceive it-achingly beautiful would be the description.
String Quartet 131 in C# Minor-slow opening movement-Beethoven: this most moving music is the track that gave me a look into the depths that a human soul can convey-true passionate art.
Fifth Symphony-adagio-Mahler: similar to the Barber, but in this case pathos and tragedy perfectly revealed through music.
Rock-Elvis:Heartbreak Hotel, Hound Dog, All Shook Up, Don't Be Cruel; Duane Eddy:“Rebel Rouser”, Otis Redding, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Sly Stone, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix : If 6 was 9; Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, the Beatles, Jerry Lee Lewis: High School Confidential, Whole Lot of Shakin’ Goin’ On; Chuck Berry, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gay, Little Richard : Long Tall Sally, Keep’ a Knockin; some of the tracks and artists that accompanied my youth and personal life.
World music-Panallal Ghosh, Bismillah Khan, the Ali Bros, Vilayet Khan, Ravi Shankar, Bulgarian Girls, Choir, Armenian Duduk playing by Gasparian; again some of the artists that broadened my horizons and directly influenced my musical and artistic vision.

YOU TUBE: As everyone knows this is an incredible site from the historical standpoint. I have seen things of myself that really bring back some memories. Recently I saw a few clips featuring the Brazilian genius Hermeto Pascal. One in particular where he is playing electric piano is incredibly chromatic. Then there is on with Joao Gilberto doing his famous rendition of the beautiful tune “Estate”. Gilberto has the uncanny ability to strum a basic, swinging rhythm on the guitar and sing completely against the pulse, a skill that I have been trying to do since time immemorial and preach to my students as a way to escape the tedium of straight eighth notes.

OF INTEREST: From the Economist, a weekly magazine I highly recommend (you need about a day to get through it)-this concerns how human beings developed in cooperation with each other: “Both the non human apes and the human children tended to look where they thought the experimenter was looking, But the non human apes paid most attention to where the experimenters head was pointing, in particular, looking up when the head was pointed up no matter what the eyes were doing. Human children on the other hand, paid the most attention to the eyes and were relatively indifferent to where the head was pointed. The idea that people evolved eyes that make it easy for others to see where they are looking suggests just how important sociability was for early humans. If human interactions were primarily competitive, it would be advantageous to camouflage eye movements, as other apes seem to do. People have evolved to make it easy for others to see where they are looking. The advantages of co-operation seem to have outweighed those of competition.”


BIRD AND LENNIE: Incredible duo and group recordings with Lennie Tristano and Bird from 1949 on CD; two geniuses getting it on in spite of critics who tried to set up controversy between the supposed “non-swinging” Tristano and Bird bebop schools.

THE “NEW” RECORD BUSINESS from “The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More” by Chris Anderson: “When we think about traditional retail, we think about what's going to sell a lot. You're not much interested in the occasional sale, because in traditional retail a CD that sells only one unit a quarter consumes exactly the same half-inch of shelf space as a CD that sells 1,000 units a quarter. There's a value to that space—rent, overhead, staffing costs, etc.—that has to be paid back by a certain number of inventory turns per month. In other words, the onesies and twosies waste space. However, when that space doesn't cost anything, suddenly you can look at those infrequent sellers again, and they begin to have value. This was the insight that led to Amazon, Netflix, and all the other companies I was talking to. All of them realized that where the economics of traditional retail ran out of steam, the economics of online retail kept going. The onesies and twosies were still only selling in small numbers, but there were so, so many of them that in aggregate they added up to a big business.”
Maybe there is light at the end of the record business tunnel!!

”Me Talk Pretty One Day” by David Sedaris: A hilarious book with vignettes about what it’s like to order food in a restaurant in New York and a great discussion of what computers are really like-wonderful writing.


JAMES BROWN: Singlehandedly, James was responsible for much of what has been played in any one of several genres for decades. This guy made an incredible impression and for me is still the standard for what a swinging, happening groove should be. Rest in peace Godfather–you sure worked hard enough!! Out this fantastic version of “Mother Popcorn” with James and Maceo Parker burning it up from 1968:
ART MURPHY: One of my first piano teachers(taught me 1-10-7 voicings) and an early transcriber of Bill Evans in the ‘60s, a wonderful man and pianist who came to see my group at the Deer Head Inn a few weeks before he died, to say good bye. Thanks for all Art.
WALTER BOOKER: I had the pleasure to record and work with Bookie along with Jimmy Cobb in the 80’s. He was the hippest of cats, who knew what the bass was supposed to do in a rhythm section. One of the real guys.


JANUARY: Jan 3-6 with Delfeayo and Jason Marsalis-“Tribute to Elvin Jones” at the Blue Note-NYC;Jan 12-IAJE Convention-Hilton Hotel, NYC-performance with Dave Liebman Group at 7PM-Trianon Ballroom-Hilton Hotel; Jan 12 with Ronan Guilfoyle(bass) and Tom Rainey(drums) at 55 Bar-NYC; Jan 17 with Scott DuBois Quartet(Thomas Morgan on bass, Gerald Cleaver on drums) at 55 Bar; Jan 19th at Penn State University, Main Campus-State College,PA -Music School Auditorium with Marko Marcinko,Phil Markowitz and Evan Gregor.

February: Feb 11-Clinic and duo performance with Marc Copland at the Deer Head Inn, Deleware Water Gap, PA;Feb 23- David Liebman Big Band at East Orange County Community College, NY; CD release-"Om/ShalOM: Old Wine, New Bottles: Jewish Music Revisited"-well known Jewish songs with Mike Stephans, Scott Colley and Benny Maupin at the Deer Head Inn-Feb 25 and the Blue Note, NYC-Feb 26

Wishing you the best for 2007