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David Liebman: Self-Portrait Of A Jazz Artist by David Liebman

Perhaps the most widely diversified and verbally articulate jazzman to have emerged in the wake of John Coltrane, soprano saxist David Liebman has not only established a firm identity as an instrumentalist, composer, and bandleader, but he is also an experienced and devoted teacher, clinician, lecturer, writer and the major force behind the International Association of Schools of Jazz. A former tenorman and flutist who had worked with both rock groups and Elvin Jones’ two-sax combo before joining Miles Davis’ heavily amplified fusion band of 1972, he ultimately decided to concentrate on soprano, primarily because its higher pitch could penetrate more easily through the dense, noisy, and muddled ensemble sound, itself still a sore point with mature admirers of early Miles.

In this enlarged and revised second edition of his Self-Portrait, Liebman presents his views on the artistic process, the creation of music, and teaching, as well as offering chapters on his own musical background and experiences, the basis of his art, and random ruminations on jazz. Appended to his core are transcriptions of probing question/answer-type interviews conducted by longstanding friends and fellow saxmen Gunnar Mossblad and Christopher Collins, Liebman’s annotated list of ten favorite jazz recordings, quoted excerpts from Larry Fisher’s book and other addenda.

By way of further elucidation (or redundancy, depending upon one’s level of fascination with the subject), Jazz Connections consists entirely of a lengthy series of transcribed interviews dealing with such by now familiar matters as Liebman’s background, influences, and experiences, his Quest quartet with Richie Beirach, his artistic objectives, and his theories on teaching, aesthetics and communicating with audiences. The conversation then moves on to such related topics as his performance style, his concept of the ideal audience, the jazzman’s lifestyle and attitudes, his role as businessman and world traveler, and opportunities for student musicians. The last two chapters document Liebman’s feelings about his period with Miles, the first having been taped a few months before Miles’ death and the second shortly thereafter. Those who are still enamored of Miles’ 1970s bands will no doubt find his comments revealing.

Originally Published