Saturday, January 31, 2009

Dave Liebman at Birdland Jazz Club

Last night, a colleague and I went to the Birdland Jazz Club on West 44th Street, not far from Broadway. This is a really nice space with a good bar, good if not great food, and an OK wine list. The band was Dave Liebman (saxophones), Randy Brecker (trumpet), Marc Copland (piano), Drew Gress (bass), and Billy Hart (drums). They opened with the howard Dietz song "You and the Night and the Music", then a Brecker original, "Moontide", then a Leibman original, "All About Bird". Dave Liebman is a very accomplished player, though I found his solos a bit "notey", as my old music teacher used to say. But he has enormous fluidity and a fiery attack that wins you over in the end. There were moments of magical interplay between him and Brecker, especially on "All About Bird", which seemed to quote every Charlie Parker tune you have ever heard.

But the greatest fascination for me was watching and listening to Marc Copland, a very accomplished pianist with a distinctive style that I found quite captivating. His solos seemed to combine knottiness with lyricism in a quite effortless way, playing lushly extended chords with a sparsity and precision that was more like Ravel or Messiaen than Evans or Jarrett. The contrapunctual playing on "All About Bird" sounded like a bebop Bach invention, and his altered chord voicings on the fabulous version of "Sidewinder" that closed the set gave the song a new lease of life for me. The rest of the rhythm section certainly carried their water, with Drew Gress on bass never flagging and providing some very nice chromatic work on "Moontide", while Billy Hart's percussion was always innovative, and he played some nicely judged solos.

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