Quest, featuring soprano saxophonist David Liebman and pianist Richie Beirach plus a rhythm section, was active as a group between 1981 and 1991, though the bulk of their recording activity took place during the last five years of the band's existence. This two-CD set compiles all of three separate albums, including Quest II, Quest III: Midpoint/Double Edge (a duo CD by Liebman and Beirach), with bassist Ron McClure and drummer Billy Hart ably assisting on the first two sessions. The six tracks from Quest II, recorded in the studio, open the first disc. Beirach's "Gargoyles" is pensive with an unpredictable path, never relenting from its brooding, mysterious setting. His "Pendulum" is a daunting modal work fired by Hart's explosive drumming and Liebman's searing soprano. Liebman's eerie ballad "Carrisma" and intense "Third Visit" provoke some of the quartet's best performances. Midpoint was recorded in concert over two nights in 1987 at the Montmartre in Copenhagen. The music encompasses compositions by each member of the quartet. Liebman's "The Code's Secretcode" is an extended work with progressively different sections, taking the listener on a delightful journey. Beirach's "The Snow Leopard" begins with a rapidly darting post-bop theme, and segues into avant-garde which leads into a dramatic feature for Hart. plus a recap of the theme. McClure's "Midpoint" is a showcase for the bassist, playing its moody theme with soft backing from Beirach, with Hart's later brushwork and Liebman's haunting soprano rounding it out. Hart's turbulent "Redemption" proves to be a very satisfying finale.
The duo selections are all familiar songs, though Liebman and Beirach present them with novel interpretations. Choosing two John Coltrane works, they detour quickly from the familiar theme of "Naima," giving it a more plaintive air, while Beirach's strumming and picking of the piano strings adds a surprising introduction to their driving, dramatic rendition of "India." Sandwiched between them is a searing performance of "'Round Midnight" that is far from the usual deliberate, spacious arrangement of this frequently recorded jazz standard. Their setting of "On Green Dolphin Street" sticks to a straight-ahead path instead of the familiar changes throughout each chorus. Beirach's interpretation of Leonard Bernstein's "Some Other Time" can't help but be influenced by Bill Evans' famous recording, with Liebman making a delayed entrance, adding a bit of mystery with his offbeat flute. There are plenty of fireworks and a darting run through Sonny Rollins' "Oleo," where the musicians never get around to its theme until the conclusion.