In 2005, Dave Liebman was invited to perform with the Koehne String Quartet in Vienna. As he describes in his liner notes to Vienna Dialogues, “for 45 minutes, I played completely tonal, lyrical melodies with hardly any improvisation, just interpretation. It was a musical high moment of my past few years! And it motivated me to pursue original ‘songs’ from the Classical and Romantic eras.”
The result is this CD consisting of duets between Liebman’s soprano sax and Avey’s piano. Avey is finishing his studies in the jazz department at SUNY Purchase College in New York, and did most of the arranging. After a year of rehearsal and performance, they recorded for NPR broadcast and this release. Unlike the Classical Jazz Quartet, which drastically alters classical selections to enable straight-ahead improvisation, Liebman and Avey stick to the written music, except where their arrangements allow for improvisation and personal inflections in a jazz vein.
Highlights are many—Chopin’s “Etude in E Flat Minor Op. 10 No 6,” with Liebman’s long, yearning solo and Avey’s strong chording; Avey’s beautiful intro and Liebman’s silky, melodic variations and winding lines on Brahms’ “Immer Leiser wird mein Schlummer Op. 105 No 2”; Liebman’s least-restrained solo, with atonal shrieks and trills on Schubert’s “Tränenregen/Wasserflut”; Avey’s sparkling solo and accompaniment on Debussy’s “Fleur des Blés,” graced with a bell-like sound, his playing here so impressive it overshadows Liebman’s; and Liebman’s deep-toned, wistful opening section on Handel’s “Sonata No 6.” Additionally, Mahler’s “Der Einsame im Herbst” is given a hauntingly memorable treatment, with outstanding solos by each.
As Liebman states, “these melodies and harmonies are ‘classic.’” Here they are interpreted with both feeling and reverence, in performances that will appeal to both jazz and classical fans.