Jazz CD Reviews
The Dave Liebman Group – Turnaround: The Music of Ornette Coleman – Jazzwerkstatt
Published on February 13, 2011
The Dave Liebman Group – Turnaround: The Music of Ornette Coleman – Jazzwerkstatt, JW079, 60:29 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:
(Dave Liebman – tenor & soprano saxophone, wooden flute; Vic Juris – electric & acoustic guitar; Tony Marino – acoustic bass; Marko Marcinko – drums, percussion)
On Turnaround: The Music of Ornette Coleman, saxophonist Dave Liebman turns to Ornette Coleman’s music for inspiration and the results are adventurous, imaginative and intense. Liebman is no stranger to tributes. In 1981 he participated in a Charles Mingus memorial release. In 1987 he collaborated with Wayne Shorter on a John Coltrane homage, in 1991 there was a commemorative album for Chet Baker and there has been more than record to honor Liebman’s former employer, Miles Davis.
Turnaround: The Music of Ornette Coleman may surprise Liebman fans. Liebman mentions in his liner notes he likes and respects Coleman. “But in general,” he explains, “his music has not had as much an influence upon me as others from my generation.” However, he admires Coleman’s lyrical melodies and decided to discover what would happen if he introduced harmonic elements into some of Coleman’s typically non-harmonic material and arranged the music to fit Liebman’s long-standing quartet. The outcome is an hour-long repertoire project – i.e., no Liebman originals – that shines a new light on Coleman’s compositions. For the most part, Liebman focuses on Coleman’s prolific 1959-1961 era. Only the lyrical “Kathelin Gray” derives from another period.
Liebman – who on this venture plays tenor and soprano saxophone and wooden flute – gets great support from the quartet he formed in 1991. Liebman, guitarist Vic Juris, bassist Tony Marino and drummer Marko Marcinko begin with “Enfant,” from Ornette on Tenor (1962). The band provides a sharp mobility with Liebman’s tenor sometimes echoing Coleman’s spiraling lines and curt soulfulness while Juris contributes resonating chords on electric guitar. Marcinko, meanwhile, presents a buoyant rhythm that neatly glides and ascends.
The title track is the one of Coleman’s many blues-tinted creations, and here everyone puts their stamp on the twisting blues theme. Listeners should pay attention to Marino and Marcinko’s interplay and the communication between Liebman’s sax and Juris’ ambient guitar. The best part is hearing how the ensemble takes this tune into undiscovered territory which includes a Latinized cadence which eventually morphs into a cerebral exclamation. This is blues with a unique grammar.
Coleman fans have their favorites. But the list usually contains the lyrical “Lonely Woman,” a haunting classic that has stood the test of time. The foursome magnifies the piece’s atmospheric core, with Liebman leading on his delicate wooden flute. Underneath, Marino supplements the track’s suffusion with sepia-sparkled arco hues as Juris fashions an aqua layer of delay, reverb and related pedal effects, and Marcinko slowly shifts from soft percussion to restless drums.
“Kathelin Gray” emanates from the 1985 Coleman/Pat Metheny undertaking Song X. Here, the cut is stripped to essentials and is organized with several different changes and boasts acoustic guitar which proves Juris should be better known. Marino secures an impressive spotlight during the medley, “Face of the Bass/Beauty Is a Rare Thing.” The extended bass solo opening is a tour de force that is articulate, flowing and heated. “Beauty Is a Rare Thing” is another well-liked Coleman piece where Liebman again turns to flute and Juris to acoustic guitar to retain the track’s melancholy quality.
Turnaround: The Music of Ornette Coleman is superb for both Coleman and Liebman fans. Coleman’s spirit bursts through and Liebman shows serious virtuosity as well as interpretive skills. Maybe it’s time someone stands up to give Liebman his due and produces a Liebman tribute. It’s overdue.
3. Kathelin Gray
4. Bird Food
5. Lonely Woman
6. Cross Breeding
7. Face of the Bass/Beauty Is a Rare Thing
8. Una Muy Bonita
9. The Blessing
10. The Sky
— Doug Simpson