David Liebman

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Colors Review

by Steve Loewy

Dave Liebman excels at concept albums; in a sense, they form his niche, and he revels in exploiting the medium. This one is strictly about colors, as each piece is a free improvisation loosely related to a particular color. Or is it? This is not the first album to interpret the visual spectrum, with paintings the usual objects of inspiration. Strictly speaking, the association is always suspect -- not that the musician does not earnestly interpret the representation, but rarely could the association be made in reverse. It would be nearly impossible, for example, to assign colors to Liebman's improvisations without knowing in advance which ones they apply to. Does "green" have a special sound? How about "blue"? Perhaps they do, subjectively. Which probably begs the question: What is important is not whether Liebman fairly translates the essence of "brown" into notes, which is, frankly, a silly exercise, but whether, as is mostly the case here, he uses the color as a source to create something of value. Each of these short (all but one under five minutes) explorations stands on its own, and represents Liebman's response, at the moment, to the color. Liebman's hefty discography and experience have taken him on a wealth of trips, through Miles Davis and beyond, much of which he pours into these fascinating vignettes, which go far beyond showmanship. Liebman is too experienced to be snared by the temptation of lesser performers to pack in all his technique on each solo to show the listener what he can do. Each improvisation stands on its own, and whether it is a color or another source of inspiration, the point is that it is inspired. Which, frankly, is one of the biggest obstacles to overcome in any solo horn album. Liebman enjoys the solo recording; unlike some of his other ventures, he sticks strictly to one horn and does not engage in any manipulations of sound.

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