With about 160 earthly years between them at the time of this 2016 meeting, pianist Martial Solal and saxophonist Dave Liebman embody experience. And boy, do they draw from it. Over the course of this absorbing live sequel to 2017’s similarly live Masters in Bordeaux, these two musicians manage to bring logic and coherence to the odd marriage of direct thought and digression. Sometimes they’re in complete accord; at other times they’re drawn to bellicose banter, or they leave each other to ponder in solitude. But at all points, Solal and Liebman prove vital and fresh.
“A Night in Tunisia” proffers authority and provides a clearing for Solal to spin his variations. The pianist’s “In and Out” settles in as a statement of slow-drawn beauty, giving Liebman room to ruminate with his tenor. The saxophonist’s “Small One” speaks to childlike wonder in its waltzing gait and wide-eyed expressions. And the immortal “Satin Doll” leans on both Ellingtonian sentiment and the pull of the present, with Liebman’s soprano playfully singing and dancing atop Solal’s piano. Whether essaying a classic melody or bending form and language to their will, this duo never treads on worn paths or falls back on common devices. “Original,” for most, is an elusive epithet. But for Solal, now 92, and Liebman, 73, it’s a well-earned appellation.