Below are some excerpts from an interview with saxophonist Dave Liebman. I had planned to include him in the “fusion season” of the BA podcast last year, but the recording wasn’t good enough, and honestly, I felt like it took us a little while to establish a conversational rapport. So I’ve transcribed some of the best stuff.

Liebman has a new album, Live at Smalls, out now, featuring trumpeter Peter Evans, pianist Leo Genovese, bassist John Hébert, and drummer Tyshawn Sorey. It’s really good, and surprisingly free, but he’s been going in that direction a lot lately — first in the collaboration with Sorey and percussionist Adam Rudolph that we discuss below, then in a duo with Ivo Perelman, part of a massive set that I reviewed in November. Here’s the first track:

And now, five questions with Dave Liebman.

The band Lookout Farm started as an album under your name, and then continued as an actual band into the mid ’70s, right? It was you and Badal Roy and Richie Beirach and a few other players…

It was a pastiche of many things. The Miles influence, of course Coltrane, Richie’s 20th century contemporary piano stuff, and Latin. There were four tunes [on the first album], and each one was kind of an idiom or a genre that I was interested in and that had been affecting me since I got into this in ’69. I didn’t sit down and say, I’m gonna write a tune that’s purposely gimmicky, or something like that; I tried to keep it honest, and we made some good music together…I loved Indian music and it became part of the group when Badal came in. I had met Badal on the On the Corner and My Goal’s Beyond sessions, and I liked him very much as a human being, and I thought it would be a great way to get the Indian influence in there. He was there about a year, I guess.

You were famously cold-called for the On the Corner session, so how did you initially come to Miles Davis’s attention? Did he pull your name out of the musicians’ union directory or something?

I was living in a loft building with Chick Corea and Dave Holland. We had three lofts on West 19th Street, and when they would play New York with [Miles’] band, with Chick and Jack [DeJohnette] and Wayne [Shorter], I would be there. And in fact we had Miles over to dinner one night in my loft, we had rice and beans and stuff like that. It was in the air — in those days, you bought a beer and you could sit all night. So that was why. Miles would play, and I’d be around. So I don’t know how much he knew of me, but this came out of the record date, and that story’s been printed ad nauseam, but we did the record date, and he said to me, “Join my band,” and I didn’t think he meant it, and I said, “I can’t do that, I’m with Elvin [Jones].” And he said, “Fuck Elvin,” or something like that. Then in January of ’74, I think it was, he called me or the manager called me and said, “He’s gonna come down to the Village Vanguard.” I was working with Elvin, and he came one night, he came another night, [and that was] very uncharacteristic of him, to come — I assume — to hear me play. He said he wanted me in the band, and I said, “You gotta talk to Elvin.” He said okay, he went home, I went home, I was living in Connecticut, and the phone rings at 4:30 in the morning, he says, “Elvin says it’s OK, you’re mine, you finish up at the Vanguard and the Jazz Workshop in Boston next week and then you’re part of the band.” So that’s how it happens.

You’ve got this new album New Now, a live recording with Adam Rudolph and Tyshawn Sorey. Tell me about how you and Rudolph got together.

I knew who he was and he had books published by the company I did books for, [and] I knew he was very good. He suggested this and I said, “OK, let’s see if we can do this, and let’s get a drummer who’s unique and special.” And we did a gig. That’s a trio that just came together, and I don’t know what the future will be, but he’s really good and Tyshawn’s great, so we had a good time.

What did you think about the live electronic elements that Adam was adding?

Well, if you want to think about Miles, going back forty years, the effects box was always on, and I encouraged [Adam] to use that because it gave a distinctive sound in the music. And Tyshawn was playing mostly acoustic, and I was playing acoustic, so…it was a fun date and then it became a record.

You’re one of the saxophonists on Ivo Perelman’s recent set of duos, Reed Rapture In Brooklyn. You went in cold, right? He didn’t tell you what horn he wanted you to play, or anything else?

He’s just a free player and he’s been doing it for years, so you follow the lead of somebody like that, and it’s very enjoyable. Because you haven’t played with somebody. The connection is pretty fast, because I’m experienced. These are things that you take for granted, but they’re going on all the time — [asking yourself] what he’s going to play, what he can be expected to do. And Ivo being a good musician, and a quote-unquote professional free player, it was quite easy to play with him because we had a lot of common language. When it comes to free jazz, there’s a lot of common understanding of your partners that you’re playing with. When you’re playing straightahead, you don’t need that. Musicians who play like that, it’s the equivalent of Dexter Gordon playing a blues. It’s what they do, and it’s your job to jump in there and make common ground with the other guy, and have a unified statement without talking about it. That’s the main thing. The talk is very minimal on these kind of dates.

One Comment on “Dave Liebman

  1. Pingback: Dave Liebman Interview – Avant Music News

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