As someone who performed and recorded alongside Miles Davis in the 70s, Dave Liebman needs no real introduction. Ahead of a week teaching at the Royal Academy, Dave came to The Verdict, a small club in Brighton, UK on to offer some words of wisdom and share stories.
Before the masterclass (and completely unplanned and unprepared), I was able to sit and chat with Dave. He single handedlyproves the people who say you should never meet your heroes completely wrong. We sat and chatted about everything from the snowstorm battering the East Coast of America to the NAMM show which he had been attending a few days previously; to embouchure and sling height techniques and the changes in tone these will bring.
Throughout the masterclass, he was full of stories ranging from his personal history and musical education, seeing ‘Trane, and being friends with the late Phil Woods right to the end. He was also full of advice about the changing climate of jazz education in the world and where it sits now as opposed to when he was first coming up. There were also a few glimpses into some of the gems gleaned from his time under Miles in his inimical sageness- “stop before you’re done” being a particularly poignant one which caused a lot of bar room discussion afterwards.
The concert comprised of two sets of standards with three local musicians, and a few guest spots from the trumpet lecturer at the Royal Academy who organised the tour. Swapping between Soprano and Tenor for the duration, the Coltrane influence in his playing was there for all to hear – with broken sequences, rapid clusters at the top of the horn’s range – right up to his final encore of “India”.
Of course there were a smattering of Miles originals (“All Blues”) and tracks particularly famous due to his renditions. A highlight was the emotionally charged rendition of “ In a Sentimental Mood” which showed Liebman really burning with all his soul.
The Herbie Hancock track “Maiden Voyage” was discussed earlier in the evening and it’s performance served to showcase the complete mastery with which Dave Liebman could flow over a modal progression.
Dave performed all these numbers with a rhythm section he had never met before, but that is something he says he’s keen to do. It opens up the possibility to carry on changing the dynamics of the group and explore where different players will go with him.
Just watching Dave Liebman play is an education in free flowing extended improvisation. He is a fantastically eloquent man and a great educator. His show offered so many lessons and so much inspiration for players of any ability or experience.
About the author:
Nick Webb is a saxophonist and writer based in Brighton, UK.