On Manhattan Dialogues, the celebrated saxophonist / composer Dave Liebman returns to the duo format with his long-time musical collaborator Phil Markowitz on piano – in a highly virtuosic October 2004 live set recorded at the Manhattan School of Music. In a breathtaking improvisational tour-de-force, the duo burns through eight originals and two imaginatively re-harmonized standards.
My first exposure to Dave Liebman were the recordings “On the Corner” by Miles Davis, and “Live at the Lighthouse” by Elvin Jones. That’s if you don’t count a set I heard him play in Southampton, NY in 1969 with one of the first fusion bands, Ten Wheel Drive - I was 16 then. I was always amazed at his intensity and harmonic prowess as well as total assimilation of the whole Coltrane legacy.
After moving to New York, I jumped at the opportunity to go down to the club “Lush Life” on Bleeker Street to hear “Quest”. I became a regular down there when they played which was quite often. In 1991, I was really excited to get the call to join his new band. What has transpired has been a post-doctoral jazz experience. “Lieb” has the whole package: brilliant musician, virtuosic instrumentalist, composer, historian, teacher and leader. Our backgrounds are amazingly similar, having both been born in Brooklyn, New York two days apart (9/4+9/6). We share the same fire and dedication to contemporary music, which make us an ideal team.
I feel this recording exemplifies the purest pursuit of the highest levels of playing with no esthetic or restrictive barriers, and because it is live, it’s incontrovertible too. Phil Markowitz
Phil Markowitz was always around the New York scene in the 70’s and 80’s, known as a brilliant pianist, with experience earned with Chet Baker and Mel Lewis, among others. When I finished my ten-year cycle with Richie Beirach and “Quest” in which the emphasis was upon group interaction and a high percentage of improvisation, it was time for a change of musical language and instrumentation towards the inclusion of synths, odd meters and more sectional writing. Forming the quintet with Jamey Haddad, Tony Marino, Vic Juris and Phil in 1991 was the beginning of our musical dialogue. That personnel remained the same through the late 90s before paring down to a quartet, while at the same time Phil and I began to play in a duo format. Since 1991, we have recorded ten CDs together in various settings. Put simply, he is about the best musician I have known.
Phil is capable of playing, reading and figuring anything out as well as one of the best composers around. He recently took on the challenge of writing for orchestra and figured it out himself as he did with big band arranging. The guy does it all and most of all, he swings his behind off!
This recording was done during the fall semester of 2004 at the Manhattan School of Music where we both teach, with a wonderful piano and an audience of students and teachers, which is in my opinion the best group to play for. They understood the intricacies of the music and wanted to like it which they did that night, inspiring us as well. Phil and I extend our gratitude to engineer Louis Brown and his assistant Matt Blostein for going the extra mile in working with us to obtain a great sound. Dave Liebman
Following are descriptions of the individual tracks by their respective composers (with comments for the last two tracks by Dave):
Teacher of Our Child - My daughter Lydia had a wonderful woman who would come to the house when she was very young to paint and draw with her. In fact one of my books, “Ten Chromatic Compositions”, has a cover painted by Lydia when she was hanging out with Elizabeth. I thought it was poetic to see an older woman sitting with a young girl, inspiring her to be creative. She was the teacher of our child.
Dave Liebman at Smith's Bar, New York, February 14, 2005. Photo : Sergio Royzen
“7” – First started as an “evil” experiment, this composition has an intentionally severely limited interval -based melodic structure, super-imposed over the harmony of Cole Porter’s song “I Love You”.
Philippe Under the Green Bridge - In the mid 90’s I took my family to Boston to see an exhibit called “Monet in the 20th Century”. There was one particularly dazzling painting of the footbridge at Monet’s home in Giverney that he used repeatedly as a subject in his paintings. It was all in shades of green, without his usual wide variety of colors - a lesson in how intense focus can be used to advantage in art. My daughter Lydia was at the age where she was ready to become attached to a stuffed animal. In the gift shop she found a green frog which eventually became her childhood pal to be named Philippe, hence the title celebrating the art of Monet. Musically, the language is quite chromatic, but to my ears also impressionistic and almost transparent in color, as was that great master.
Sno’ Peas was written in 1979 and subsequently recorded by Bill Evans and Toots Thielemans on their release “Affinity”. I added the pedal point in 1980 when I recorded it with Eddie Gomez and Al Foster. This version makes the most out of the metric modulation inspired by the melody.
Jung-In the 1980s I read Carl Jung’s autobiography, “Memories, Dreams and Reflections” which I enjoyed immensely, as it made me think about a lot of things in the past, both near and remote, personal and objective. I named a solo record after the book and wrote this tune for Jung. For the most part, it is double triad harmony with a small cluster-type harmonic section serving as a transition between solos. For me, the composition and performance evoke a mysterious and thoughtful ambiance.
Off by One-The title describes the delayed start of the melodic material in this composition.
Mahoning–is the fourth movement of “Abstract Expression - Musical Portraits of American Masters”, a five-part suite that I scored for orchestra and piano trio. “Mahoning” is a huge canvas by Franz Kline which hangs in the permanent collection of the Whitney Museum. It depicts massive black I-beam type shapes suspended in the clouds.
The Night Has 1000 Eyes-This is a great tune, because it has both a pedal point section and normal II-V-I chord cycles which provide the improviser with a very complete harmonic palette. This performance was called on the spot.
‘Round Midnight-I recorded this classic for the first time on my initial recording as a leader in Japan, “First Visit”, with Richie Beirach, Jack DeJohnette and Dave Holland in 1973. We reharmonized it then and I continue the tradition here, playing only the tune itself with Dizzy’s intro after an unaccompanied sax solo.
Dave Liebman & Phil Markowitz
Recorded in Oct 2004 at the Manhattan School of Music, New York , NY.
Engineer: Louis Brown. Assistant: Matt Blostein. Final mix and edit: Kent Heckman, Red Rock Studios; Saylorsburg, PA, in March 2005. Produced by Dave Liebman & Phil Markowitz. Photography : Sergio Royzen. Package Design : Three and Co., New York (www.threeandco.com). Executive producer: Joachim Becker.
Dave Liebman endorses Keilwerth saxophones, Superial reeds, and AMT microphones.
All Liebman compositions published by Liebstone Music (BMI).
All Markowitz compositions published by Solar Hawk Music (ASCAP).