FEW ARTISTS ARE ABLE TO TIE THE PAST AND PRESENT OF JAZZ AS WELL AS DAVID LIEBMAN. THE SAX AND FLUTE MASTER STARTED HIS CAREER WITH MILES DAVIS’ FAMED ON THE CORNER, DARK MAGUS AND GET UP WITH IT BANDS, AND THEN SHOWED HIS JOHN COLTRANE DNA WITH HIS FAMED STINT WITH DRUMMER ELVIN JONES.
HIS WORK AS A LEADER HAS RESULTED IN HIS FAMED WORK WITH RICHARD BEIRACH, MOST NOTABLY ON THE FAMED LOOKOUT FARM.
PAST FEW YEARS HAS BALANCED THE PERSPECTIVE WITH THE PAST WITH A VISION FOR THE FUTURE. LIEBMAN HAS GIVEN HOMAGE TO MILES DAVIS WITH A KIND OF BLUE TOUR WITH JIMMY COBB, AND THIS PAST YEAR DID AN ALBUM WITH JOE LOVANO IN TRIBUTE TO THE UNDER-APPRECIATED LATE PERIOD OF JOHN COLTRANE’S WORK WITH THE ALBUM COMPASSION . HIS MOST RECENT GROUP, EXPANSION, RECENTLY RELEASED A SEARING DOUBLE LIVE ALBUM THAT FEATURES SOME OF THE MOST EXCITING NEW SOUNDS HEARD IN YEARS.
WE RECENTLY CAUGHT UP WITH THE JAZZ MASTER, AS HE PUT HIS PAST AND PRESENT INTO PERSPECTIVE
1) When did you first see John Coltrane play? Who was in the band at the original show? What were your initial impressions? Did you know much about jazz at the time?
I first saw him at 1962 at Birdland. I was actually there on a date believe it or not. It was the classic quartet plus Eric Dolphy. I was in complete shock and I couldn’t believe he was playing the same instrument that I had at home. I didn’t know much about jazz at the time.
2) What were the subsequent shows like that you saw? Did his style keep changing over the time you saw him?
His performances were always extremely intense and inspiring. He consistently evolved. For evidence listen to “My Favorite Things” over the years
4) Did you ever get a chance to meet or talk to him?
Not directly unfortunately. I stood by him when he spoke to others though.
6) You seem to be attracted to the last era of Coltrane’s playing. Why is that? Why do you think it is the most under appreciated of his career?
The period is difficult for the average listener to comprehend what was gong on in the midst of the cacophony. Theres a spirituality in that part that is more elevated than prior years.
7) You took music lessons from the legendary Lennie Tristano. What did you learn from him? Did it fly in the face of your interest in Coltrane?
I learned that jazz can be taught in some ways.
9) Looking back on your days with Elvin Jones, what are your fondest memories of him and the music you two made? What was your thought of the reissues from Mosaic Records?
Theres no way to describe it. It’s an overall feeling of an oceanic mass behind you when Elvin played. (Not aware of the reissues)
13) How did Miles Davis contact you? What was the first rehearsal like, or did you just join him on stage?
I was called to record for the “On the Corner” record. No rehearsals or discussions. A phone call and that was it.
14) Were there any rehearsals? Did Davis give any advice before or after the shows?
“Stop before you’re done.”
15) What did you learn from your time with him?
I learned that Jazz is serious business. Also how to use the rhythm section to your advantage.
16) At the time, those albums were not received well. Why do you think it took so much time for them to get appreciated?
He was mixing what was considered commercial music, funk and rock and roll into jazz therefore the purists were quite upset. Especially because it was Miles Davis.
17) Did critical acclaim or disapproval affect Miles Davis or the band?
Miles never read a review from what I understand.
26) 50 years from now, which Coltrane albums will be remembered, and why?
“Love Supreme”, “Crescent”, “Giant Steps” and “Ballads”. Eternal music for the ages.
27) If Coltrane came onto the scene today, do you think he’d be received as well as he was back in ’61-65? Why or why not?
He would be received very well because excellence is excellence no matter when.
ALWAYS TOURING, ALWAYS RECORDING, AND ALWAYS MOVING FORWARD, DAVID LIEBMAN CARRIES WITH HIM A HUGE HISTORICAL TREASURE CHEST ON HIS SHOULDERS, ALWAYS WILLING TO OPEN IT AND SHARE STORED SECRETS AND MAKING IT FIT WELL WITH THE PRESENT WORLD.
CHECK OUT HIS RECENT MATERIAL, AND THEN DIG DEEP INTO HIS ATTIC TO FIND TREASURES OF YOUR OWN.