Dave Liebman Quartet: Setting The Standard

Intense, Traneian saxophonist Liebman plays Milestones, Grand Central Station, Invitation and others with a distinguished trio in 1982


A gentle drum patter introduces a nicely off-centre Milestones, and we are off, the leader immediately playing with and stretching out the theme, then Mulgrew Miller turning in a solo that takes it almost to breaking point before Liebman completes the demolition job. For this set is not an honourable stroll through eight familiar classics, rather an exploration of how these standards can be expanded and explored and turned upside down.

Liebman’s solo on Old Devil Moon is almost Coltrane-like in its atonality in comparison to Miller’s much more centred approach, although Liebman wins out in the end. Without You is taken at a jaunty speed, Liebman expansive in his solo, while Coltrane’s Grand Central Station is a fine feature for Miller’s fluid pianism.

Three songs stand out for their quiet concentration – a wistful and enchanting I’m A Fool To Want You, a lilting I Didn’t Know What Time It Was, dominated by Rufus Reid’s beautiful solo and ended with Liebman in full flight, and then a melancholic, fragmented treatment of Bronislaw Kaper’s rarely heard Invitation – and all bring out the strengths of the band in listening to and concentrating on each other. A sprightly, Latin-rhythmed Nica’s Dream ends proceedings.

Ploughing through the band members’ lengthy discographies would suggest that this set was a one-off collaboration, for this quartet did not record another set after this. So it is good to have this 32-year-old back in circulation once again.

Milestones; Old Devil Moon; I’m A Fool To Want You; Without You; Grand Central Station; I Didn’t Know What Time It Was; Invitation; Nica’s Dream (56.26)
Liebman (ss); Mulgrew Miller (p); Rufus Reid (b); Victor Lewis (d). Hartford, Pennsylvania, May 1992.
Red Records RR 123253-2