White soprano saxophonist Dave Liebman (1946), who played with Miles Davis (1973-74),
had demonstrated his austere compositional ambitions and his multi-reed skills (soprano sax, tenor sax, flute and clarinet)
on the live Open Sky (june 1972), in a trio with bassist Frank Tusa and drummer Bob Moses. Liebman mixed ideas from classical music, progressive-rock, Ornette Coleman, Charles Mingus and Lennie Tristano in
the 13-minute Places, the ten-minute Questions and the eight-minute Constellation.
Lookout Farm (october 1973), the project with pianist Richie Beirach,
offered an original blend of cool jazz and free jazz in the 14-minute Pablo's Story and the 24-minute M.D. /Lookout Farm.
Drum Ode (may 1974) veered towards a baroque and exotic fusion (The Iguana's Ritual and Loft Dance), thanks to a line-up that featured Liebman on soprano sax, tenor sax and alto flute Beirach, Moses, guitarist John Abercrombie, percussionists Barry Altschul and Collin Walcott, vocalist Elene Sternberg, as well as bongo, conga and tabla players.
The group (including Beirach, Abercrombie, bassists Charlie Haden and Frank Tusa, percussionist Don Alias, sitarist Arooj Lazewal, tabla player Badal Roy, tamboura player Gita Roy) toyed with Indian-jazz fusion on Sweet Hands (july 1975), but the highlight was the funk-jazz-rock workout Dr Faustus.
Forgotten Fantasies (november 1975) was, instead, just a duo of Liebman and Beirach, straddling the border of fusion jazz, cool jazz and free jazz in Beirach's 13-minute Obsidian Mirrors.
After briefly flirting with Herbie Hancock's funk-jazz, and recording a straighforward hard-bop album such as Pendulum (february 1978) with a quintet featuring Beirach, Tusa, trumpeter Randy Brecker and drummer Al Foster, mostly devoted to Beirach's 18-minute Pendulum,
in 1978 Liebman formed his Quintet with veteran Japanese trumpeter Terumasa Hino and guitarist John Scofield. Their Opal Heart (february 1979), Doin' It Again (august 1979) and especially If They Only Knew (july 1980), with their most mature post-bop compositions (If They Only Knew, Capistrano and Move On Some), were much more structured and linear than the music of
Liebman's chamber music surfaced on the drum-less Dedications (september 1979), containing pieces for soprano saxophone, piano (Beirach), bass (Eddie Gomez) and a string section (The Delicacy of Youth and The Code's Select Code) as well as a duo of soprano sax and cello (Ode for Leo) and a duo of soprano and violin (Mr K).
Its ludic alter-ego was What It Is (december 1979), featuring Scofield, pianist Kenny Kirkland, vibraphonist Mike Mainieri, bassist Marcus Miller, drummer Steve Gadd, percussionist Don Alias.
The project of Lookout Farm was de facto reprised with Quest, another collaboration with Beirach but this time in a quartet with Liebman on soprano only and in a lighter context:
Quest (december 1981), with Napanoch,
Quest II (april 1986),
the live NY Nites (march 1988),
Natural Selection (june 1988), bordering on new-age music,
Of One Mind (july 1990), devoted to free jazz, etc.
More important were Liebman's solo-saxophone (with overdubs) concept album
The Loneliness Of A Long-Distance Runner (december 1985),
Trio + One (may 1988), a set of creative improvisations with
bassist Dave Holland and drummer Jack Dejohnette, the neoclassical
Chant (july 1989), a new duo project with Beirach including three Beirach Incantations and three Liebman Invocations,
and a second solo concept The Tree (april 1990),
all of them focusing on the soprano saxophone.
While the David Liebman Group featuring keyboardist Phil Markowitz and guitarist Vic Juris largely disappointed in the linear, structured pieces of Songs for My Daughter (may 1994),
Liebman's most intense work was for the chamber setting, whether the
impressionistic vignettes of The Seasons (january 1993),
for a chamber trio with bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Billy Hart, and of
The Elements - Water (january 1997), for the same trio augmented with
guitarist Pat Metheny,
or the solo meditations of Time Immemorial (november 1997), four lengthy suites for soprano, tenor, alto and baritone, as well as bamboo flute and dudek,
further processed by producer Walter Quintus, and of Colors (august 1998)
for tenor saxophone.
The Group was reduced to a more adventurous sax-guitar-bass-drums quartet for
In A Mellow Tone (2001) and
Conversation (february 2003), with the eleven-minute Anubis.
Beyond the Line (february 2001) was an experiment with a big band.
Live/As Always (recorded live in october 2005 and in april 2007) contains six original compositions on soprano sax and wooden flute with an 18-piece band conducted by Gunnar Mossblad.
Relevance (january 2008) is a four-part suite by
a trio with Dave Liebman, Evan Parker (both on soprano and tenor sax) and drummer Tony Bianco.
Contact (january 2010) debuted the combo of saxophonist David Liebman, guitarist Joh Abercrombie, pianist Marc Copland, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Billy Hart.
Different But The Same (may 2004) featured a quartet led by the
tenor saxes of David Liebman and Ellery Eskelin.
soprano and tenor saxes and wooden flute on the solo live performances of
The Distance Runner (august 2004), notably
the 16-minute Time Immemorial: Before, Then, Now, After.
Liebman collaborated with French pianist Jean-Marie Machado on
and Eternal Moments (may 2009).
The trio with bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Adam Nussbaum performed
all original compositions (except one) on Amazing.
Saxophone Summit, a sextet with
Ravi Coltrane (tenor sax) Joe Lovano (saxes),
Phil Markowitz (piano), Cecil McBee (bass) and Billy Hart
Gathering Of Spirits (january 2004), with
Michael Brecker, Seraphic Light (october 2007),
Visitation (february 2011).
Samsara (Whaling City Sound, 2014) and
The Puzzle (may 2015)
debuted Liebman's project Expansions , with pianist Bobby Avey, reedist Matt Vashlishan, bassist Tony Marino and
drummer Alex Ritz.
Dave Liebman played tenor & soprano saxes, C flute, native american flute, recorder, piri & Fender Rhodes on
The Unknowable (july 2016),
accompanied by Tatsuya Nakatani on drum kit, gongs & percussion, and Adam Rudolph on hand drumset, thumb piano, assorted ethnic percussion & processing.
Chi (may 2018)
documents a live performance by
Dave Liebman (soprano and tenor saxophones, piano, wooden recorder), Adam Rudolph (handrumset, piano, sintir, multi-phonic vocal, percussion, electronic processing) and Hamid Drake (drumset, vocal, frame drum, percussion).
Expansions returned with
the double-disc Expansions Live (recordings from 2014, 2015 and 2016)
Earth (recorded in 2018).
QuinT5T (january 2020) debuted a quintet with
Randy Brecker (trumpet and flugelhorn), Marc Copland (piano), Drew Gress (bass) and Joey Baron (drums).
Empathy (2021) documents a collaboration with Richie Beirach.
Trust And Honesty (february 2022) documents a session with Liebman on soprano sax and flute, Ben Monder on guitars and John Hebert on bass.
The live New Now
(september 2021) features
Tyshawn Sorey (drumset & piano) and Adam Rudolph (handrumset, percussion & electronic processing).
Liebman (on tenor & soprano sax) recorded the three lengthy improvisations of Lost In Time, Live At Smalls (january 2022) with Peter Evans on trumpet, Leo Genovese on piano, John Hebert on contrabass and Tyshawn Sorey on drums, notably the 33-minute The Middle and the 25-minute The End.