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David Liebman Group: The Unknown Jobim

Like many, I became a Dave Liebman fan in the early 1970s when it seemed he and his horns was everywhere: with Elvin Jones, Miles Davis and some intriguing work as a leader for ECM and Horizons, among others. He seemed to capture the energy and spirit of Coltrane, et al, while blowing with a voice of his own, unafraid to tackle new and much-varied ground.

He hasn’t changed in all those years and hasn’t mellowed (much), but Liebman has continued to explore textures and tonalities where most are afraid to tread.

Though I am a Brazilian-music hound, I have never cared for the ubiquitous rehashes of Jobim tunes: most are unimaginative interpretations of the same repertoire, attempting some semblance of the hard-to-render-correctly bossa nova pulse. So when Liebman’s The Unknown Jobim sprang from my speakers I was surprised. With longtime bandmates Vic Juris, Tony Marino and Jamey Haddad, Liebman has managed to capture a different approach: these nuggets of the Jobim oeuvre are treated like any other jazz tune-that cliched bossa tap-tap-tapa-ta-tap has been banished from the charts. Gracias a Deus!

Despite the title, many of the tunes are not exactly unknown, but they are welcome anyway: “Dindi” gets a wonderful treatment, which allows Juris to stretch on acoustic guitar and Liebman switches to piano-a very nice understated combination of timbres for this gentle ballad-and “Espehlo das Aguas” swings like a pendulum as Liebman blows with authority on tenor, while the band offers him solid rhythmic and harmonic support that is anything but Latin-feeling. The title song to the film Eu Te Amo (I Love You) is rarely heard outside that context and Liebman’s soprano and Marino’s bass liberate it a step or two beyond soundtrack status and prove the tune’s worth. And the fascinating and playful read of “O Morro Nao Tern Vez,” performed on an Indian bamboo flute, gives me hope that Jobim’s tunes will continue to be heard in original ways such as this. Give us more!

Originally Published