Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The David Liebman Trio: Lieb Plays the Blues a la Trane

Challenge Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Lieb Plays the Blues a la Trane

David Liebman is a jazz anachronism in many respects. Unlike most college-educated musicians, he graduated with a degree in history. Although his early jazz catalyst was John Coltrane, Liebman is fluent in many other musical genres, styles and artists; he actively honors all of them. His primary instruments are the soprano and tenor sax, and he's a master of both.

Liebman also is a prolific composer and arranger; he tours extensively and has a huge discography.

Although his concerts are generally theme- or artist-oriented, this album was a "spur of the moment" endeavor. Liebman and his trio — bassist Marius Beets and drummer Eric Ineke — were at a club in Belgium, playing Kurt Weill and Alec Wilder compositions, when they decided to play something different during one performance. The result was a new visit to the work of Liebman's initial idol, John Coltrane; the theme was an evening of blues played by, or associated with, him.

The result also was a full performance; the five tracks filled an entire hour!

"All Blues" is an incomparable classic, written by Miles Davis during the period when Coltrane was a member of his group. (If I were allowed to have only a single blues CD in my library, it would be Kind of Blue). "Up Against The Wall," "Mr. P.C." and "Village Blues" are Coltrane compositions, written at various periods during his career. Finally, "Take The Coltrane" was written by Duke Ellington as part of the Ellington/Coltrane album.

So, what we have is a quadruple-play: a Miles Davis interpretation of what Coltrane meant for him; Coltrane’s own definitions of the blues; Duke’s side of the story; and, finally, Liebman’s interpretation of Coltrane’s impact on his life.

Many jazz critics have noted that folks either love or hate Coltrane. That aside, his influence on jazz — and those who play it — was massive.

If you’re a fan, this is a must-have album.

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