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Dave Liebman Quartet At The California Jazz Conservatory

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Dave Liebman Quartet
Dave Liebman Quartet at the California Jazz Conservatory

On Friday April 14th the California Jazz Conservatory in Berkeley, California presented a rare opportunity to see and hear Dave Liebman in a quartet setting. The trio of Liberty Ellman on electric guitar, Jeff Densen on upright bass, and Gerald Cleaver on drums were just the right combination to showcase Dave’s soprano sax. Dave announced that we were to hear Jazz Standards, which the audience began to understand as mostly compositions by jazz musicians.

Judging by the little stories Dave told as introductions to the tunes, he was in an expansive mood. The initial composition was Cole Porter’s Night and Day which reminded Dave of a funny story about Frank Sinatra. The whole group soloed and set the tone for a relaxed evening of jazz. It was just a matter of time before Dave got into some of his main inspiration, John Coltrane. The group played Coltrane’s Village Blues where Densen dug deep into a blues bag and Dave played a long fresh solo. In a tribute to his most famous employer, Dave announced that they would play some Miles. All Blues was the selection starting with Liberty Ellman’s shimmering guitar. As an introduction to Maiden Voyage Dave spoke about Herbie Hancock and the way he used sus chords*. In the mid sixties this was considered an innovation by musicians.

Going way back, Dave called an Ellington tune, In A Sentimental Mood. Gerald Cleaver got out his brushes and gently began the classic ballad. In a tip of the hat to the bebop era the quartet played Dizzy Gillespie’s A Night In Tunisia complete with a solo drum introduction. To round out the evening, Dave chose a Coltrane composition from 1961, India. The tune was recorded only once at the Village Vanguard in NYC. There were plenty of drone sitar like sounds that came from Liberty Ellman’s guitar, which was a great evocation of the title. India was by far the most adventurous tune and a great way to end the evening on a provocative note.

Looking back on the concert Dave and the trio walked the audience through several eras of jazz from Ellington in the 30’s to Coltrane and Hancock in the 60’s with a nod to Dizzy in the 40’s and Miles in the 50’s. In retrospect Dave Liebman and group played a well thought out introduction to jazz.

*A suspended chord (or sus chord) is a musical chord in which the (major or minor) third is omitted and replaced with a perfect fourth or a major second. The lack of a minor or a major third in the chord creates an open sound, while the dissonance between the fourth and fifth or second and root creates tension. When using popular-music symbols, they are indicated by the symbols “sus4” and “sus2”. Wikipedia

Brooks Geiken is a retired Spanish teacher, with a lifelong interest in music, specifically Afro-Cuban, Brazilian, and Black American music. His wife thinks he should write a book titled "The White Dude's Guide to Afro-Cuban & Jazz Music". Brooks lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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