The David Liebman Trio – Lieb Plays the Blues a la Trane – Daybreak/ Challenge Records DBCHR75978, 53:16 [Distr. by Allegro] ****1/2:
(Dave Liebman – soprano & tenor saxophone; Marius Beets – bass; Eric Ineke – drums)
David Liebman is a true link to seminal jazz of the late fifties and early sixties. As a twelve-year- old student of the saxophone, he was drawn to the abstract structures of jazz. A native New Yorker, he frequented historic Greenwich Village clubs, including the Village Vanguard, Half Note and Birdland. It was there he witnessed, in awe, the genius of John Coltrane. After an initial foray into fusion, he was hired by the legendary Coltrane drummer, Elvin Jones. A four year tenure with Miles Davis augmented the learning curve. Following a world tour with Chic Corea in 1977, he formed the David Liebman Quartet, which included John Scofield. This ensemble recorded seven albums, and established the saxophonist as a prominent exponent of idiomatic jazz.
Always evolving as an artist, Liebman has recorded and played with musicians around the globe. His eminence on the soprano saxophone has garnered a staggering cache of recognition. Featured on over three hundred and fifty recordings, and attributed as composer of hundreds of compositions, this prolific musician has ascended to cultural prominence. His work ranges from avant-garde and bop to chamber music and fusion. He is the author of several books on music, and in 1989 founded the International Association of Schools of Jazz. Additionally, he covered the music of Kurt Weill and Alec Wilder, among many others.
During the Weill/Wilder tour, he decided to record a live album of quintessential Coltrane material. Even though he had previously released a Coltrane album (Homage To Coltrane) in 1987, the time was right for a live set. Inside a small club in Belgium, Lieb Plays the Blues a la Trane became a reality. Emphasizing the blues inflected themes of Coltrane, Liebman has fashioned an improvisational coup. Without being derivative, the group emulates the spontaneity of live Coltrane. The opening track, “All Blues” (actually a Miles Davis piece from the iconic 1959 album, Kind Of Blue) explodes with the piercing wails on soprano saxophone that weave around the melody with dissonant flair. A cymbal-driven percussion (Eric Ineke) and fluent bass solo (Marius Beets) bring a resounding voice to this layered opus. “Take The Coltrane” (a Duke Ellington composition from the 1963 collaboration) is briskly nimble, and features a colorful tenor saxophone lead and crashing drums.
In between the aforementioned numbers, are three Coltrane original works.. Returning to soprano, Liebman shines on the fifteen minute “Village Blues”. As the trio establishes a relaxed tempo, the sax lines are melodic, yet strained to push standard boundaries. Both Ineke and Beets turn in well executed solos. Up tempo rhythm is handled on “Up Against The Wall” sketched by a bawdy tenor lead, as Liebman unleashes a torrent of fierce licks in step with his rhythm section. The trio has synthesized the blues aesthetic into a highly intricate context.
The tone of the recording captures the acoustic intimacy of the venue. With straightforward earnestness, Lieb Plays Blues A La Trane, establishes David Liebman as the standard bearer of bebop.
TrackList: All Blues; Up Against The Wall; Mr P.C.; Village Blues; Take The Coltrane
— Robbie Gerson