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What It Is: The Life of a Jazz Artist by Dave Liebman in Conversation with Lewis Porter

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Dave Liebman has always been one of the smartest and most forthcoming musicians of his generation, and in his new book, What It Is: The Life of a Jazz Artist, the saxophonist and educator holds forth on his art, life and restless creative spirit with effortless candor and lyricism.

Compiled from interviews conducted by pianist, author and historian Lewis Porter, What It Is smoothly encompasses the full breadth of Liebman’s career. Lieb was playing in small combos from the time he was a teenager, but it wasn’t until a 1962 visit to Birdland to see John Coltrane that the Jewish kid from Brooklyn saw his future path laid out (“Once you see the light,” he says of Trane’s playing, “you can never turn away again”). The ensuing half-century would see Liebman playing with Trane’s old boss Miles Davis, and with his thunderous former drummer Elvin Jones; making his mark on fusion and the free music of the ’70s New York Loft scene; fronting his own well-regarded groups with an ever-shifting and idiosyncratic cast of musical luminaries (notably drummer Bob Moses, his earliest jazz connection, and the mercurial but brilliant pianist Richie Beirach); forging an outstanding additional career as a jazz educator, capped by his founding of the estimable International Association of Schools of Jazz; and collecting a raft of important awards, including last year’s designation as a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts.

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