David Liebman and Phil Markowitz: Manhattan Dialogues

Saxophonist Dave Liebman and pianist Phil Markowitz have recorded 10 CDs together, and they’ve worked as a duo since the late 1990s. Since they are exceptional performers who combine advanced theoretical knowledge and technical skill with a mature jazz sensibility and a rich musical imagination, all the right elements were in place for this fall 2004 duo performance before students and faculty at the Manhattan School of Music.

Except for Thelonious Monk’s “‘Round Midnight” and one other standard, the compositions are all the performers’ own. They include such inventive material as Markowitz’s “7,” whose melody is based on the interval of that name and superimposed on the chords of Cole Porter’s “I Love You,” and Liebman’s slow, rubato and evocative “Jung,” which provides him a setting for an inspired solo that reveals an authentic dramatic curve and also gives Markowitz an opportunity for a virtuoso mini-recital. Indeed, in a few spots the pianist’s improvisations sound more “classical” than jazz, and that’s OK, too, but for the most part he swings heatedly with an extraordinary display of conceptual brilliance and hand coordination. Meanwhile, Liebman’s ambitious and splendidly crafted soprano and tenor lines consistently exhibit solid, Coltrane-inspired jazz inflections.