David Liebman

Dream of Nite

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Veteran saxophonist, flutist, and composer Dave Liebman leads this stellar Italian group in a live outing recorded in 2005. The band consists of the great Tony Arco on drums, bassist Paolo Benedettini, and pianist Roberto Tarenzi. The quartet roots its sound deeply in the modal investigations of Miles Davis and the inquisitive yet expressive improvisational explorations of Coltrane circa A Love Supreme. This isn't idle praise; it's simply what the music bears out. The interplay and listening between bandmembers -- and in particular the rhythm section -- are remarkable. Liebman, who has played many different kinds of jazz with more people than even he can count over these last 30-plus years, moves effortlessly from full-blown modal articulations on the soprano to deep bluesy tenor playing and back to the soprano to improvise on Turkish and Jewish folk melodies in his solos. The reading of Davis' "Fran-Dance" here is executed exceedingly well over nine minutes, with some lovely soloing by Liebman on soprano and beautiful chromatic work by Tarenzi. That said, the full measure of the band's power comes from the compositions of its various members: Arco's stellar "Feel," near the beginning of the disc, reveals just how much freewheeling improvisation can happen inside a tune based on open eighth notes. On Tarenzi's "Unsteady," rhythmic patterns shift quickly and often while Liebman navigates them effortlessly in his solo, and Tarenzi takes all of them into his without losing the rhythm section for even a moment as the modal tune unfolds. No matter where the soloists drift, they always seem to come back at the same moment. Benedettini's bass playing is almost movingly sensitive, not just to time, but to dynamic and emotive textures. Arco is a dancing kind of drummer, playing different tensions with each hand, pushing just enough of the beat ahead or behind to create a different opening for the ensemble to pursue. Check out the support Liebman gets on his closing title track, where the beat seems to open up just as he's getting ready to solo; they offer him a sturdy ledge to let his own interpolative scales and angles turn back on themselves before foraging further, yet the melody in the head is never lost and the rhythm becomes circular at the tune's most adventurous moments. Though these men play together sporadically, the excitement they generate here makes them sound as if they've been a unit for decades.

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