Friday, February 26, 2010


FROM THE NY TIMES–INTERVIEW WITH PIERRE BOULEZ: “Performers aren’t audacious enough today. They think audiences won’t respond to what’s unfamiliar. But to provoke — in the good sense — is the performer’s role. It’s not just to give one more concert. That’s not culture….that’s marketing.”

Some of my readers may have already seen the You Tube clip with me and a 13 year old Israeli pianist, Gadi Lehav playing “Autumn Leaves” in a club on my recent trip to Tel Aviv. Sure enough, I received a clip of another pre-teen genius from somewhere in Russia who had Keith Jarrett down. And below there is a link to a 16 year old tenor player, Ben Solomon from Chicago, who will be coming to my saxophone master class in August seriously channeling old Trane (after the big band head is played below). Of course there have been performing wunderkinds in the arts forever and in jazz to name a few we’ve had Tony Williams, Paul Chambers, even Bird to some extent. But this young and this good!! What is going on folks? Is it some DNA recombination, is it in the air…what?

To hear Ben:
To see Gadi and Lieb:
((You may have to paste in browser)

Without any scientific proof, one thing is for sure. With You Tube and instant access to recordings, teaching aids and history, every generation from now on will have all the tools at hand. Quick access to information at a young age makes for a potent situation, which for example in the case of the Columbine massacre when those kids learned how to gather a small arsenal through the internet was not too good. On the positive side, if the desire is there and a kid wants to see for example Coltrane, hear a recording, study a transcription, read an analysis of his music, etc., with a click it’s done. Then there is my generation which became the first great “explainers” of how to play jazz down to the molecular level (not withstanding early jazz education pioneers like Jerry Coker, David Baker and Jamey Aebersold to name a few). Certainly it is heartening as my neighbor Phil Woods famously said to me about jazz education: “It’s better for a kid to have a horn in his hand than a weapon.” (After all, this IS gun happy America we live in!) But beyond the enduring life lessons that a young person learns through the jazz process (interaction, discipline, individuality, etc.) and assuming there may be increasingly more Gadis and Bens out there, the question is what is their future like?

First of all, as a result of the internet let’s acknowledge the basic reality concerning the demise of the traditional business model that guys like me grew up on meaning record deals, promotion, touring, etc. In other words the detrimental effect the web has had on the entertainment/media business in general which translates to the virtual end of books, movies, TV, newspapers, even pornography (because it is free on the web) and who knows what else. When you begin this discussion the usual platitudes are heard stating that change has happened before like for example the industrial revolution (on a grand scale) or TV when it first appeared, blah, blah, blah; all meant to imply that somehow things work out because it always has. In the music biz, the optimistic outlook is that the internet means more access for people to obtain your art without the middlemen (record companies, PR people, etc.) in the way so you can make a perfect CD in one’s basement, put it up on Facebook or Twitter or whatever and voila, you are known and get gigs where you sell your product. Everything is beautiful. This scenario doesn’t take one major thing into consideration which is that how and why will Mr. and Mrs. So and So come to your site for your art if they have no idea of who you are. We are back to the perpetual bottom line in a free commerce society which is promotion, meaning in this case let’s say a banner across the Google site or something like that. Now we are talking about major bucks. But of course we do not know the future and maybe everything will work out.....

What I am more interested in relation to the wunderkind phenom is much more basic. What will these kids play in ten or twenty years? This eternal question that has been on the minds of interested thinkers over centuries is usually answered by stating that music evolves over time and has done so for hundreds of years, implying that the variations are endless and things do change. But on the other hand as far as jazz goes, this is not like finding a cure for cancer or disease which in general is open ended, or going to the moon, then to Pluto and so on. Are there just so many ways to skin a cat when it comes to improvising in a particular style. Has Indian classical music changed over its 5000 year history?? Should we think or accept that jazz is finite? What more can be done besides the obvious and eternal aspect of stylization meaning that someone like Gadi or Ben will probably find their own sound and identifiable way of playing the existing language on their respective instruments-not a small feat but it begs the question of the future of the music..
No answers—just questions!!

The 23rd Saxophone Master Class will take place as usual at East Stroudsburg University, East Stroudsburg, PA (one and half hours from New York City). A description of the activities, past meetings, etc. is available on my site. If you are interested I need a CD of your playing; even with a play along track is fine. I am looking for at least a middle level of understanding jazz basics, chord changes and time feel. The class will take place the first week of August.
Send to: Dave Liebman
2206 Brislin Road
Stroudsburg, PA 18360


Liner notes:
A lot has been written about the music and legacy of Ornette Coleman, his “harmelodic” approach and overall influence. If only for his first recordings in the late 50’s and early 60’s, especially Free Jazz with the double quartets, he would’ve made musical history. On a personal level from the several times I’ve met Ornette, he impressed me as soft-spoken, a total gentleman always ready to talk about music and explain his theories (which after five minutes had me completely baffled--similar to what I have heard from others). I particularly love two of his recordings for their incredible swing and fire: New York Is Now with Elvin Jones and Jimmy Garrison and Live At the Golden Circle with Charles Moffett and David Izenzon-both great rhythm sections. But in general his music has not had as much an influence upon me as others from my generation. This is primarily due to the relatively minor role that harmony plays in his music, or shall I say intentional-direct harmony. For my aesthetic, choosing and refining harmony (at least on occasion) deepens the expressive power of a melody, be it an improvised line or a nursery rhyme. The development of harmony stands as one of the major contributions of Western culture to the musical world at large. Although there have been “harmonic moments” in Ornette’s music in tandem with pianists Walter Norris, Paul Bley, Joachim Kuhn and Gerri Allan, as well as all the bass players throughout the years, for the most part Ornette’s brand of “free-bop” doesn’t really place much importance on harmony per se.
Nonetheless I do admire his seemingly never ending repository of lyrical melodies, most of which do just fine with little or no direct harmony. Over the years it intrigued me to imagine what would happen if I “loaned” harmony to some of the more likely material and arranged the freer music to fit my long standing group of twenty years which features the guitar in the person of Vic Juris.
A primary factor for me when considering what I call “repertoire” projects (as opposed to original material) is that I can learn something by immersing myself in another’s person’s music and life. After choosing material from Ornette’s vast catalogue and re-thinking the original recorded concepts, I focused on his improvising and found several recurring tendencies: tonally centered material for extended periods sprinkled by short chromatic excursions into neighboring key areas; triadic and close interval line construction with occasional use of wider intervals; often use of blues inflections if not actual blues licks per se; intense swinging eighth notes interspersed with non metrical fast multi-noted flurries; a basically legato flowing approach to articulation encompassing the full range of the alto saxophone with a very strong and focused tone. Finally, there is present a feeling of controlled abandonment which consistently underlies the group interaction surrounding Ornette as a soloist.
Above all as in any great music, it is the spirit that shines brightest. In Ornette’s music there is a joyful spirit which permeates throughout and explains why people love his art as they do. His music expresses an irrepressible joie de vivre, uplifting and mournful at the same time, playful and deadly serious-a full view of the human condition. With deep respect to a true individualist and master of his art, I hope you enjoy our Ornette Coleman voyage.

Dave Liebman-tenor and soprano saxophones; wooden flute
Vic Juris-acoustic and electric guitars
Tony Marino-acoustic bass
Marko Marcinko-drums and percussion

3-Kathelin Gray-6:37
4-Bird Food-5:46
5-Lonely Woman-6:43
6-Cross Breeding-3:57
7-Face of the Bass/Beauty Is a Rare Thing-8:09
8- Una Muy Bonita-7:6
9-The Blessing-6:00
10-The Sky-4:57

You’ve probably seen this guy do “Blue Trane” and “Skunk Funk” on the recorder. Here he is doing Clifford Brown on “Donna Lee.” How much does this guy practice?

MUSIC EDUCATION IN JAPAN: This is something to see the way they teach music at least at this school in Japan. Notice-no music in front of them, the little kid playing baritone, the girl on trombone but most of all, the conductor at the end-scary, not a hint of a smile.
While we are in Japan here’s some wild jazz humor:

UNBELIEVABLE EARL BOSTIC ALTISSIMO: Bostic was very admired by the saxophonists of his day. Trane also spent time in his band in the early ‘50s. This audio clip is really something else.

Leaving out any discussion of politics, Israel is incrediblein respect to the creative energy of the people. There are all kinds of projects in education, computers, environment and music going on. The level of education is what makes it this way in my opinion, not to mention that they exist in a pressure cooker environment. The Rimon School which has been operating since 1985 and hosted one of the IASJ Jazz Meetings in the `90s has SIX HUNDRED students studying everything from jazz to pop song writing and more. After all, this is the Middle East we are talking about-quite impressive. From what I could observe all the teachers are involved in musical activities and very content with the scene, something I don’t hear often as I travel around. Quite a place.

With student ensemble from the Rimon School in Tel Aviv

LOOKOUT FARM REVISITED AT BIRDLAND (NYC): Playing some of the repertoire from my first group along with Richie Beirach, Jeff Williams on drums and Ron McClure subbing for original bassist, Frank Tusa, we had a great weekend with a lot of old friends attending. That band which I began after being wtih Miles and recording for ECM was pretty popular around the New York area in the day. Tablaist Badal Roy who was part of the band for a period sat in with us the last night as did trumpeter extraordinaire, Tim Hagans. Following is something I sent around concerning some personal observations about the weekend.
“I want to share something special with my friends, family and musical associates. It doesn’t happen often at this age that you look back at your roots not as a result of someone passing but because someone is present.
How appropriate that after playing four nights at Birdland in "reunion" mode performing some of the music from my first band, “Lookout Farm” with Richie Beirach, Jeff Williams and Ron McLure (taking Frank Tusa's place), I spoke with Eugene and Beverly Gregan. Gene is the artist guru who was a major inspirational figure for me and a lot of people over the years. He is still painting away at Lookout Farm (not an actual farm) in Napanoch, NY. You can believe it that in the early ‘70s after leaving Miles to go on my own, if I named the band after Eugene’s scene, there must have been a strong reason. And a tune on Richie and my first duet record “Forgotten Fantasy” for him.

His paintings have surrounded me for decades wherever I have lived; he of course did several of mine and Richie's early record covers (remember those things!) including "Drum Ode" and "Pendulum." Eugene is in his ‘70s and in perfect health as is his great wife, Beverly. They live like a modern day Monet or Picasso-tending the plentiful garden-cooking perfect healthy food and painting life on a day to day basis as the seasons change and evolve over the years. As an artist he lives in a constant precarious state of financial flux, mainly because he never played the art dealer game (which makes the jazz business look like Buddhism!!) Geno is a combination of street guy and shaman who could create anything from an animal bone, piece of wood, napkin, plate or canvas.

Eugene hipped me to a short U Tube spot on him which captures the essence. The guy is 73!!

DIFFERENT BUT THE SAME with Ellery Eskelin (sax), Jim Black (drums) and Tony Marino (bass). One of my favorite groups that I work with, we played Cornelia Street Club in Manhattan and Blues Alley in Washington, DC. Ellery received a grant from Chamber Music America to write and record a piece especially written for the group which was the centerpiece of the two evenings. He has a notational system where he writes rhythms to play but you make up the pitches on the spot which takes a lot of concentration. This is a great band and very user friendly for the audience because we push the listening boundary a bit over the edge but with enough references to the jazz tradition to keep everyone’s attention.

March 2nd, 3rd-Stadtgarten, Koln and Max Ernst Museum in Brühl, Germany with Koln Contemporary Jazz Orchestra conducted and arranged by Heiner Schmitz
March 5th Performance with German group at the Nozart Festival in the Basement-Koln, Germany
March 6 through 13 tour with "Quest" (Richie Beirach, piano-Billy Hart-drums, Ron McClure-bass):
March 7-PARIS/France-Sunset Jazz Club
March 8-PARIS/France-Sunset Jazz Club
March 9-MONTPELLIER/France-Jam Club
March 10-SEVILLA/Spain-Teatro Central de Sevilla
March 11-TERRASSA/Spain Nova Jazz Cava
March 12-OSLO/Norway Cosmopolite Scene
March 13-TORINO/Italy Conservatorio Giuseppe Verdi
March 22, 23-Workshop:Guildhall in London, England
March 24-26-Workshop and Keynote Speaker for Jazz Conference, Leeds College, England

Master classes at Berklee College, Boston, MA; master class and concert doing the music of Weather Report arranged by Bill Warfield, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA; master class and performance at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI; Dave Liebman Group at Western Connecticut University, Darien, CT; at 55 Bar, NYC.