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David Liebman: Conversation

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The bland title Conversation is a little evasive, but the cover image, a painting of what appears to be food on a tabletop, gets right at it. This is the kind of warm, satisfied conversation men have on full bellies. At their best, the Dave Liebman Group delivers an insistent, expansive sound, tight interplay and lyricism. What they lack, however, is any sense of urgency.

Far too often, as on the pastoral “Snow Day” or the painfully obvious “Cosmos,” the band settles for cute unison arrangements and an impressionist dreaminess that tends to downshift into sleepiness. The new drummer, Marko Marcinko, is an active, rockish player, but his drumming, spread wide in the mix, tends to level the music rather than spur it. Liebman occasionally includes fusion or New Age elements, like his keening, overdubbed Indian flute on “Anubis,” which may help differentiate the music-but not in a good way. Only Liebman’s sax work really stands out from the genial surroundings. His solos have a little too much bite and grace to settle too comfortably into the music. A tune with a title like “Tickle Bath” needs a good loud soprano screech, even if it takes the composer to deliver it.

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