Liebman_span3
September 2006

David Liebman/Steve Swallow/Adam Nussbaum
We Three: Three For All
Challenge Records

Dave Liebman, Steve Swallow and Adam Nussbaum have moved in the same circles for nearly four decades. But surprisingly, the three of them have never all worked together in the same band. Until now.

With Three for All, the newly minted trio wastes no time in catching up. The disc is relaxed and playful, a nicely balanced program of upbeat and quiet playing that shows off the group’s remarkable rapport.

As the lone horn voice (on saxophones and flute), Liebman naturally captures attention first. His playing throughout the set is adventurous yet restrained, as he lets fresh ideas change course like quicksilver without allowing them to overwhelm the mood. He’s boozy on sly covers of “I Only Have Eyes for You” and Thelonious Monk’s “Played Twice,” honking merrily along in Swallow’s “Up and Adam” or floating and fluttering in the eponymous “We 3.”

The key to the group is that it truly moves as a collective, each member responding instantly to the others. Swallow is clearly having a good time as his bass takes lyrical strolls through the tunes, occasionally pausing to investigate a particularly juicy phrase. Nussbaum’s drumming tumbles and stutters, sliding in and out of a background role as if on casters.

Low-key, fun and informal, this challenging yet thoroughly accessible album offers myriad joys.

Originally published in September 2006
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