Sunday, September 2, 2007

INTERVALS - Sept 2007

(Drummers gathered at Max Roach's funeral)


Steve Bagby: Not a household name by any means, Steve was THE drummer in Miami for decades. He influenced countless drummers attending the University of Miami as well as studying with him, in particular my present man, Marko Marcinko. Steve was a fantastic musician who played the music, well beyond the drums themselves. He could go all the way and was perfect in a variety of musical situations. A sweet guy also who knew the truth and reality of what we do in the world.

Max Roach:When I spoke to Adam Nussbaum about Max’s passing and commented that he may have been the most important drummer ever as far as setting a new way to play, Adam said that Max would’ve probably said the same about Jo Jones. Max was a pioneer in a lot of ways-drum ensembles, civil rights activism, first recipient of the MacArthur grant for jazz, played with everyone from Bird to Cecil Taylor and was an influential band leader. He referred to the drums as the “multiple percussion set” and played them in a very melodic fashion. If I recall correctly years ago in a poll by Downbeat conducted among musicians for their choice of most respected musicians, it was Duke and Max who came out on top. This was a major guy!!



It was forty years ago that I landed in Stockholm, Sweden and calling pianist Lars Werner whose number was given to me by bassist Cameron Brown. After the usual salutations Lars asked: ”Do you know that John Coltrane died today?” I immediately broke into tears while Lars urged me to quickly take the train to his home. I was at the right place at the right time in the 1960s being able to see Trane many times in New York. It was completely by accident but it has determined my life since. I would not be the same person without the music of John Coltrane. Whatever words I write cannot express my appreciation as I was definitely privileged to have been witness to greatness. His music is as close to a belief in a higher power as I have ever felt.Anyone who knows me, either personally or through the music over these decades realizes how important Coltrane was to my life, way beyond the music itself. When I think of the most influences that have molded me outside of direct family, it is Trane, number one. Through his music, I saw the power of sound and human creation, that there is something else besides what we materially see or hear in front of us. What underscores these thoughts is that over the four decades, the power of Trane’s music has just grown more and more, obviously in some ways as a result of the constant releases of “new” material, but more than that. Eventually, by hook or crook as I became a better musician over these years, my appreciation of the skills and depth of what Coltrane gave the world keeps increasing. This reality has strengthened my convictions about the power of art to raise the human condition. As well, when you have such a model in one’s mind and ear on a daily level, it puts everything else clearly in proportion, in the real world as well as musically. I am a lucky guy!!


(NOTE:July 17, besides being Trane’s passing day is also Lady Day’s!!)

Following are some edited comments concerning my last Intervals edition written for Trane’s passing on July 17:

Hey Dave, It says in the Bible “that a man of justice lives by faith alone. Trane was a man of Faith… that’s why (to me) his music was righteous .Thank you for sending this to me. I love Trane.
Peace Brother

AMEN......thanx for reminding---i remember where i was then(home in 10th grade high school)--- i had really just begun to understand him (as elvin first grabbed my constant attention)---i remember staring at a picture from one of the lps----very shortly thereafter i remember IMPULSE released EXPRESSIONS---since you had heard his live testimony it probably didn’t shock you as much but that stuff on expressions really blew me away as i heard how he was clearly creating something totally new right till the end---as i guess we all have to........

YEAH Brother Dave, MY feelings as well...
TRANE was my MAIN MAN, never heard anything like that and don't expect I
ever will again. Like YOU, when I want to hear PERFECTION I go right to
and just lay up and open my SOUL and let the MASTER fill it with LOVE.
And LORD ELVIN too. I remember when I first heard him on a Gretsch Drum Night
recording with the other Masters, Max, Blakey, Philly Joe I think it was.
Elvin really blew them all away cause his shit was so New and SO HIP. (That thing he did
with the bass drum, playing two sixteenths that tata tata thing coordinated with
the left hand whereas before almost everyone played a single note off beat. Elvin
moved the time into the hands playing On Top like melody line players do while at
the same time providing the most profound but free kind of bottom. OH MAN, he
won my heart IMMEDIATELY.)
Yeah Brother, Trane took US way Up past the MOUNTAINTOP into the realm of
Heaven itself and WE could never be the SAME again...

I remember Coltrane's nod to us, some forty odd years ago, one night outside the Half Note. For me a pleasant anecdote, for you the royal touch, a transformation. You are right about luck David, it's influence is huge, defamed though it is by the muscular nitwits running things who seem to consider will, which usually is little more than favorable precondition, the only acceptable explanation. But falling into things works quite well too. I guess I've moved from being an ignorant jew to an ignorant daoist.

Dear David

This remembrance is extremely significant as only true genius, greatness can and should be. If not for the importance of universal sustenance and our own humanity and awareness, deep spiritual insight and the desire to have peace in a world of hostility and fear, then to enjoy in what little time we have the pleasure and the healing of such great and noble artists such as Mr. Coltrane for years of greatness still yet to be discovered by those who where there, those who are there and those who are yet to come

I remember one festival in the late 70's backstage in Japan when you ripped into "Giant Steps" like nobody's business--never forgot that moment of your confirmation re Trane . . . I had my moment with Trane myself, when we came face-to-face in the Village Vanguard. He said to me "Thank you", kind of out of the blue . . . but quite appropriate, what with your saying "Thank you" to the Master today, on the anniversary of his passing. What goes around comes around.
Love and Peace,

Larry and Tracey Coryell

I do share your feelings, dear Mr. Liebman.
There is not that much to add.
His music speaks for himself.
Warm regards

Hi Bro:
Thanks for these few lines on Coltrane
I exactly know what you mean and I just can tell that
Him and his music and this quartet are for me a source
of immense emotion and, in the bad moments of life, a
reason to go on, for all the reasons you said.
You think you are a lucky guy
I think I am a super lucky guy to know you and share
sometimes this mystery of music with you

“The Half Note is what changed my life as Elvin and John played 40 minutes more after McCoy and Jimmy dropped out on one chord. NOW THAT I LIKED!


A VIEW OF RELIGION: From an article in the NY Times Sunday Section about the idea of redemption and its history in the modern world, I found these sentences which I feel are very accurate as to my feelings towards this touchy subject.

The Politics of God by MARK LILLA: “The idea of redemption is among the most powerful forces shaping human existence in all those societies touched by the biblical tradition. It has inspired people to endure suffering, overcome suffering and inflict suffering on others. It has offered hope and inspiration in times of darkness; it has also added to the darkness by arousing unrealistic expectations and justifying those who spill blood to satisfy them. All the biblical religions cultivate the idea of redemption, and all fear its power to inflame minds and deafen them to the voice of reason. We encounter what those orthodox traditions always dreaded: the translation of religious notions of apocalypse and redemption into a justification of political messianism, now under frightening modern conditions.”

ON INGMAR BERGMAN by Stephen Holden (critic of the NY Times)-some prescient remarks I think:

“Today the religion of high art that dominated the 1950s and ’60s seems increasingly quaint and provincial. The longstanding belief that humans are born with singular psyches and souls is being superseded by an emerging new ideal: the human as technologically perfectible machine. The culture of the soul — of Freud and Marx and, yes, Bergman — has been overtaken by the culture of the body. Biotechnology leads the shaky way into the future, and pseudo-immortality, through cloning, is in sight. Who needs a soul if the self is technologically mutable? For that matter, who needs art?”


IASJ 17th Annual Meeting: For our third time in the beautiful Tuscan city of Siena, we were hosted by the Siena Associazone which has been conducting workshops for thirty years turning out countless musicians, Italian as well as other nationalities as a result of their yearly workshop held each August. We had the most countries ever in this, our seventeenth year with a sizable representation from the States:Cincinnati Conservatory, Univ of Miami, Cal Arts, New School, Berklee, Univ of Michigan, Indiana University, the New Paltz campus of the NY State University as well as the Souza Lima School in Sao Paolo, Brazil, Riga, Latvia (hosts of next year’s meeting); Prague, Czech Republic and usual attendees from around the world. Once again the level of the students along with their ability to get along both musically and socially in the international ensembles continues to impress my colleagues and myself. The IASJ is alive and doing well in our 18th year!!

Lydia and Caris in Rome: St.Peters(top) and the Palatine

WE THREE TOUR: With maestro Steve Swallow and Adam Nussbaum, we had a wonderful week of nice concerts in July. What a pleasure to consort with Citizen Swallow who plays perfectly every night and conjures up aural impressions of J.S. Bach in his solo excursions, tune after tune. And “Dome” has to be one of the most fun drummers to play with-his energy and feel are always right on.

20th MASTER CLASS: It is hard to believe that I have been conducting master classes at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania, very near to my home for twenty years and in the same room with my partner Pat Dorian taking care of the logistics. For the first fifteen years or so I kept the saxophone theme, but then alternated with the chromatic concepts I teach at the Manhattan School of Music. This year, for the special class I decided to do a whole week on Coltrane culminating in a multi-saxophone version of the “Meditations Suite” which I have performed many times during the five year anniversaries of Coltrane’s birth and passing. With ten former attendees, spending a week on Coltrane was incredible. The truth is that the well never runs dry-John was amazing beyond belief and in a way, you couldn’t have written a better script (outside of his early passing). Everything in his musical life seemed to go down in perfect order, something which he was definitely aware taking positive advantage. Like all great art, the material itself continues to reveal more and more as time passes, based on its quality, not on the myth (which with the passing of time, naturally increases in any artist’s case).We also played a night at the Deer Head Inn in small group formations with the rhythm section of Mike Stephans(drums), Evan Gregor(bass) and Phil Markowitz(piano).

SKETCHES OF SPAIN IN MARCIAC, FRANCE: With my good friend, Jean Charles Richard, conducting great students from the Toulouse Conservatory, I had a great time as I always do performing my favorite all time piece of music, Gil Evans’ “Sketches of Spain.” Each time I do it I hear more of Gil’s orchestration and arranging which as mentioned above in relation to Coltrane, also reveals more each time. It appears to be a dictum that the true worth of a work of art cannot be fully discovered until some time has passed.

IRELAND, ISRAEL, SARDINIA: I had a very active four days in Dublin, Ireland culminating in a performance of a piece written by bassist Ronan Guilfoyle called “Head, Hand, Heart” (an expression I use in teaching describing those aspects of being involved in an art form. It was scored for clarinet (John Ruocco), trombone (Nils Wogram), guitar (Irish guy) , drums (Tom Rainey who is really incredible) and of course Ronan on bass. At the Red Sea Festival in Eilat, Israel Saxophone Sumit with Joe Lovano and Ravi Coltrane played two concerts of an all Coltrane program ending with the “Meditations Suite.” Finally, a return after thirteen years to Nuoro, a small town in the middle of Sardinia with native trumpet master, Paulo Fresu and his group with whom I recorded and toured in the 80s. Italian students have a really fresh and lively spirit.

THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF LOST LUGGAGE: Maybe one of the greatest highs and lows in the world of travel is when at first your bag doesn't make it to your last stop and you start figuring out what to wear to the gig, how to wash up and what to buy if it goes on for more than a day. BUT, when magically you go to your room after the gig or sometime the next day and there it is, innocently standing in the middle of the room, it is like finding your lost child!! It happened to me twice in four days.


Bret Primack presents Like Sonny - The Story of Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane
which can be seen here:


Go to venue to get exact dates, fees if any and addresses.

September: Birdland, NYC with the Dave Liebman Group featuring guests Anthony Jackson and Mike Stern playing music from the “Beyond the Corner” (Shrapnel Records) recording; Saxophone Summit playing the music of John Coltrane including Meditations Suite with the Manhattan School of Music Concert Jazz Orchestra at Symphony Space, NYC featuring Joe Lovano, Ravi Coltrane, Phil Markowitz, Cecil McBee and Billy Hart; appearance at the COTA Festival, Delaware water Gap, PA –Dave Liebman and Neighbors with Mike Stephans(drums), Evan Gregor(bass), Matt Vashlishan (alto), Bobby Avey(piano), Lydia Liebman(vocals).