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David Liebman, Ellery Eskelin, Tony Marino, Jim Black: Different but the Same

Dave Liebman and Ellery Eskelin’s Different but the Same (Hatology) made me think of Jack DeJohnette’s 1979 album Special Edition-in part because each album features two saxophones in the front line, yet more because both reflect the kind of restless intellectualism, physicality and artistic integrity that got me excited about jazz in the first place. Bassist Tony Marino and drummer Jim Black provide terrific rhythm accompaniment for a set of Liebman and Eskelin originals, plus a couple of lesser-known jazz classics: “Gnid” by Tadd Dameron and “Vonetta” by Wayne Shorter. There’s also a quirky arrangement of “What Is This Thing Called Love?” that’s well worth the price of admission.

Liebman and Eskelin share certain traits. Both have comprehensive chops. Both are masters of time and space able to play in, over and around the pulse without losing the swing. Their differences become apparent on “Gnid,” where the contrast between Liebman’s lissome style and Eskelin’s more gutbucket sensibility become more clear-cut. The compositions and arrangements are imaginative, the performances inspired. Knotty and challenging, this is left-leaning acoustic jazz at its most creative and intense.

Originally Published