In 1987 Dave Liebman joined saxophonist Wayne Shorter, bassist Eddie Gómez, drummer Jack DeJohnette and pianist Richie Beirach in recording Live Under The Sky: Tribute to John Coltrane in Tokyo. The intensity of that performance and the subsequent interview with Mr. Liebman showed the musicians’ unconditional love for the legendary master musician, John Coltrane. Then, it was eminently clear that few tributes to Mr. Coltrane would equal that one for the depth of its homage and its spirituality as well. And while that may be true, the passage of time has intensified musicians’ feeling of loss that also left the world of jazz without its moral compass; its spiritual leader who showed a generation of musicians the way forward. It was left to musicians such as Albert Ayler and Pharoah Sanders, and now Wayne Shorter as well, to point musicians in the direction of the soul of the music and to revive the spiritualism of Mr. Coltrane’s message. But it also pays to remember the work of the ineffable Dave Liebman in keeping music spiritually centred. Should that have ever been forgotten, here is a timely reminder, which also comes as a tribute to Mr. Coltrane: This is the magnificently produced and recorded Ceremony. Although Mr. Coltrane seemed to be moving “eastwards” and seemed more likely to meld his Afri-centred music with that of India, there is a suggestion—especially with this recording—that at some time in his late-period, Mr. Coltrane was also discovering Afro-Caribbean music. His use of conga and batá drummers surely seemed to be pointing in that direction. But why talk only of John Coltrane? Ceremony is primarily Mr. Liebman’s expression; his direction to take. And even if it lasts for one record, it will have left a lasting impression on his music because of the depth to which Mr. Liebman has reached here.
There is a remarkable aspect to Ceremony. It is filled with nothing but the melodic presence of Dave Liebman’s saxophones and flute and the force and power of Afro-Caribbean drumming combined with the tumbao of the bass. It is this very intense and concentrated rhythm that throws Mr. Liebman’s mystical melodies into the spotlight. And it is the stark timbres of Mr. Liebman’s magnificent playing that set the tone for the whole album. His undulating volume and unevenly stressed notes make for dramatic shifts not only in volume, but also in tone that herald the implicit pleading in songs such as “Tardes de Lindóia.” These magical moments continue to inform the soaring flute of both “The Drum Thing” and “Danza del Pájaro.” It is the mythic connection between the songs that seems to suggest another possible root that Mr. Coltrane might have developed had he lived to fully explore various musical idioms and metaphors. But these charts are not simply suggestions of John Coltrane’s possible directions. In actual fact they are Dave Liebman’s monumental meditations. The spirited releases of energy in “The Drum Thing,” “Tunji” and “Kulu Sé Mama (Juno Sé Mama)” from Dave Liebman indicates that Mr. Liebman too is Afri-centred in his musical approach. It also suggests that this saxophonist pays more than a fleeting homage to this music; the music of African-American poets of the brass and woodwinds, reeds and strings, piano, bass and drums. And then there is Mr. Liebman’s suite, Ceremony. The nobility of the composition is driven by its heraldic nature. It is celebratory and, oddly enough it also seems to coincide with the spiritualism of Afri-Centric shamanism as well as Christian prayer. Most of all (and this might or might not have been Mr. Liebman’s intention) the music stretches inter-continentally in the direction of Asia in general and India in particular, with that country’s mystical celebration of “Satchitananda”(Sanskrit)—that which is “being, consciousness, bliss”—attained by intense meditation. Remarkably Mr. Liebman’s musicianship speaks this musical language as well. And it is this that brings him incredibly close to John Coltrane, musically as well as spiritually.
Dave Liebman’s feel for imagery and poetry is vast and seemingly limitless. His handling of this through his instruments of choice gives him tremendous possibility as he searches the darkness for that “Satchitananda” something that he is likely to find sooner rather than later. This requires method and discipline—something Mr. Liebman has an unlimited store of. His music will become more energised then as his spirit roams the aether of the fourth dimension; the ethereal realm of music that has proved elusive to most musicians but will never be inaccessible to Dave Liebman, a musician who plumbs the depths of the soul, going Challenger-deep to find nirvana of his music or the Afro-Caribbean bliss that is already suggested by the mighty music of this recording. Ceremony is Dave Liebman’s parallel to Carlos Castañeda’s “Ways of Seeing” without the necessary use of peyote for Mr. Liebman’s drug is music; something no one will have enough of after listening to the music of this recording.
Track List: The Drum Thing; Tunji; Kulu Sé Mama (Juno Sé Mama); Ceremony: Morning; Ceremony: Afternoon; Ceremony: Evening; Tardes de Lindóia; Danza del Pájaro
Personnel: Dave Liebman: tenor and soprano saxophones, wooden flute; Willy Rodriguez: drum set, percussion; Paolo Stagnaro: congas, batá, cajón, percussion, Iyá (1); Gabo Lugo: congas percussion, Itótele (1); Marcos López: timbales, percussion, Okónkolo (1); Oscar Stagnaro: electric bass
Label: Chesky Records | Release date: November 2014
Sample Track: Ceremony – Evening
About Dave Liebman
David Liebman was born in Brooklyn, New York on September 4, 1946. He began classical piano lessons at the age of nine and saxophone by twelve. His interest in jazz was sparked by seeing John Coltrane perform live in New York City clubs such as Birdland, Village Vanguard and Half Note. Throughout high school and college, Liebman pursued his jazz interest by studying with saxophone guru Joe Allard as well as jazz musicians Lennie Tristano and Charles Lloyd. Upon graduation from New York University (with a degree in American History), he began to seriously devote himself to the full time pursuit of being a jazz artist. In the early 1970s, Liebman took the leading organizational role as Founder and President of Free Life Communication, a cooperative of several dozen young musical… Read more…
Adrien Brandeis: Siempre Más Allá
Listening to the music of Siempre Más Allá, it certainly seems that the young French pianist, Adrien Brandeis has strengthened the belief that he is a proverbial citizen of the Afro-Caribbean universe. To be clear Mr Brandeis still loves all music and swings as hard as any pianist who loves Black American Music – that is, music that you can sing and dance to. But also continues to be beguiled by the rolling thunder of Afro-Caribbean music. The wild call of the rhythms and the joie de vivre of the questing melodies and harmonies not only appeal to his ear, but also speak to him in the hidden parts of his heart.
By his own admission Siempre Más Allá took root during three tours to Mexico undertaken under the aegis of the Fédération des Alliances Françaises du Mexique. The virtually all-Afro-Cuban repertoire of the album radiates charm at every turn. These disarmingly natural and eloquent performances bring out the music’s inherent drama and penchant for tumbao with a deft touch while indulging Brandeis’ lyrical instincts to the full. Meticulously balanced, the four quartet pieces, the trio and duo pieces feel as if they are chamber works. Brandeis’ astonishingly insightful playing is musically captivating and technically blemishless. Each phrase rings so completely true that one can’t imagine the music played any other way.
The album features Mr Brandeis and a group of very accomplished musicians. These include the celebrated Cuban percussionist Roberto Vizcaíno Guillot [on two tracks] and his son Roberto Vizcaíno Jr., Mexican drummer José Loria Triay make up the wall of percussion. The Brasilian bassist Giliard Lopes brings his distinctive veritas to the whole rhythm section. The big surprise here is, perhaps, the presence of the great Cuban Horacio “El Negro” Hernández sitting in the drum chair on La buena vibra.
Siempre Más Allá is an affirmation of Brandeis’ enduring love and natural affinity for Latin music. Not surprisingly the music seems to echo the famous Latin American phrase: “¡Que rico bailo yo!” [which, in English, exclaims: “How well I dance!”]. This is no hyperbole as the music – in its pulses and rhythms show as Brandeis traverses the rhythmic topography of the Caribbean and Latin America. Along the way Brandeis plunged into the world of changüí, the chacarera, Brasilian gaucho music and the ancient melodic thunder of bàtá drums.
From the get-go listeners will find themselves immersed in quite another world of rippling percussive grooves. The track Ek Bakam, for instance, conjures the intricate architecture; the line and flow of an epic Mayan civilisation located in the Yucatan. Narratives from the Latin world abound – often paying homage to famous traditional musicians. Pancho’s Power is one such chart inspired by the vivid world of the legendary trio Los Panchos. Brandeis gives his percussion section a lot of space when he puts the spotlight on them on Tierra de Oportunidades – a wistful memory of the pianist’s three tours to Mexico, which is also incidentally the popular provincial slogan of the Mexican state of Guanajuato. On Huachi-Huachi Brandeis digs deep into the epicurean delights of the only Latin country in North America with this song in praise of a kind of gourmet Mexican fish: the huachinango.
Brandeis then celebrates his association with percussion colourist Roberto Vizcaíno Jr. with the extraordinary music of Vizcaíno Blues, a piece unique with its exploratory chromaticisms and elegant sonorities that beautifully capture the eloquence of the percussionist in whose praise the music is written. Mindful of the fact that Vizcaíno is Cuban but makes his home in Mexico, Brandeis shapes the rhythmic and harmonic palette of the piece accordingly. On La Buena Vibra Brandeis delivers astonishing pianistic fireworks in the piece’s melodic and harmonic lines, played at a frenetic pace, to mirror the style of its dedicatee, Michel Camilo. The pianist demonstrates an authentic home-grown grasp of Cuban music as he reimages Voy a Apagar la Luz, by the legendary and late-singer Armando Manzanero, here adapted as a wistful solo piano work. Meanwhile on the dizzying ride of Humpty Dumpty the pianist pays homage to another idol: Chick Corea, by revisiting the sparkling composition of the recently-deceased piano maestro.
It is hard not to be mesmerised by this spirited and finely nuanced music artfully crafted in an album by Adrien Brandeis, a pianist who is about to take the world by storm with a recording that is going to be one of the finest by any musician located outside the Latin American sub-continent.
Tracks – 1: Huachi Huachi; 2: Alegría; 3: Pancho’s Power; 4: Ek balam; 5: Un peu d’espoir; 6: Vizcaíno’s Blues; 7: Tierra de oportunidades; 8: Humpty Dumpty; 9: La buena vibra; 10: Voy a apagar la luz
Musicians – Adrien Brandeis: piano; Giliard Lopes: contrabass; José Loria Triay: drums; Roberto Vizcaíno Jr: congas and bàtá drums. Featuring – Roberto Vizcaíno Guillot: percussion [1, 6]; Horacio “El Negro” Hernández: drums 
Released – 2022
Label – Mantodea Music Productions
Runtime – 58:25
YouTube Video – Adrien Brandeis – Siempre más allá (EPK)
YouTube Audio – Adrien Brandeis – Vizcaíno’s Blues
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