JJ 08/81: David Liebman Quintet – If They Only Knew

Forty years ago, Mark Gilbert welcomed the replacement of the theme-solos-theme routine by imaginative arrangement. First published in Jazz Journal August 1981


Arrangements make this record work. Whereas too many jazz releases follow the old theme/solos formula, almost every track here provides continuing interest by blending themes with tempo, harmonic and ‘density’ changes (ie – varying the number of instru­ments playing at any time).

The tunes and themes are strong, ranging over a wide spectrum on expression, the title track offering a quinessential illustration of the effectiveness of the whole.

The presence of strong brass riff patterns and bass pedal figures I suppose makes this jazz rock, but harmonically it goes much further than the basic blues forms of rock, drawing on any number of influences, especially evident in the Scofield composition Capistrano, where you can hear jazz, blues, classical and flamenco figures.

The rhythm section is versatile, some­times extrovert and strenous, urging climaxes, at other times gently un­obtrusive. At the quieter extreme, Autumn In New York is a duet between just guitar and tenor. Only this track and Moontide threaten to become stodgy, but by any stan­dards these ballads are effective, and in any case add variety to the overall programming. A well-recommended release.

If They Only Knew; Capistrano; Moontide (22.41) – Reunion; Autumn In New York; Move On Some (21.25)
David Liebman (ts/ss); Terumasa Hino (t/flh); John Scofield (g); Ron McClure (b); Adam Nussbaum (d). Holland, July 1980.
(Timeless SJP 151)