The Beginning with Elvin Jones and Miles Davis:
Born in Brooklyn, NY in 1946, Liebman grew up playing a variety of instruments and studying jazz with the likes of Lennie Tristano, Joe Allard, and Charles Lloyd. Just after graduating from NYU with a degree in American history, he helped to found Free Life Communication, a jazz musician’s co-operative. He also joined Ten Wheel Drive in 1970, one of the early jazz fusion/rock groups. After about two years with them, he moved to the saxophone/flute position in the group of legendary Coltrane drummer, Elvin Jones. In 1973, his apprenticeship reached its zenith when Miles Davis invited him to join his group.
Liebman’s Musical Groups:
His head constantly abubble with new ideas, Lieb has headed a number of groups, playing in a variety of styles. His first group, which he formed with Bob Moses in 1970, was called Open Sky Trio. In 1973, together with pianist Richard Beirach, he formed Lookout Farm, which toured the world, made several records, and garnered first place in Down Beat’s 1976 International Critic’s Poll in the category, Group Most Deserving of Wider Recognition. In 1981, together with Beirach, George Mraz, and Al Foster, he formed a group called Quest. Quest reached its peak between 1984 and 1991, after the addition of bassist Ron McClure and drummer Billy Hart.
When speaking of Dave Liebman it is impossible to overlook his faithful companion and the instrument of his passion — the soprano sax. Though he began his career playing all manner of horns, he decided at the end of the 70’s to dedicate himself exclusively to the soprano sax. Appreciative critics and fans have consistently listed him among the top five soprano saxophonists in the world. A number of European orchestras and chamber ensembles, with whom he has played and recorded, have commissioned works especially designed to capture unique brand of playing.
Educator and Clinician:
Lieb’s total commitment to jazz is manifest in the creation in 1989 of the International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE), an organization with members in 40 different countries dedicated to connecting jazz teachers to students. His own erudition and talents as a teacher have made him much in demand at workshops and clinics around the world. On a regular basis, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), which has honored him with grants for composition and performance, awards grants to musicians who wish to study with him.
Recordings with Arkadia Records:
And yet, even with all his organizational and pedagogical efforts, Lieb’s first love remains the music itself. He had recorded dozens of albums under his own name and was a featured sideman on nearly 200 others. Signaling his intention to focus his music making energies, he signed an exclusive recording agreement with New York’s Arkadia Jazz, recording four highly acclaimed albums, and appearing on several others. Together with the acclaimed David Liebman Group, he has recorded the album “New Vista”, which came out in early 1997. Other albums that Liebman has recorded for Arkadia Records are a recording of John Coltrane’s ethereal masterpiece, “Meditation Suite”, a joint project with guitarist Pat Metheny entitled “The Elements: Water” and “Dave Liebman Plays Puccini: A Walk in the Clouds”. Liebman received a Grammy Award Nomination for his performance of “My Favorite Things” on the album, “Arkadia Jazz All-Stars: Thank You, John (Our Tribute to John Coltrane)”.
In 2011, Dave Liebman was honored as a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Jazz Master. One of the jazz world’s most innovative and dedicated citizens, Liebman does not have to wrestle with the temptation to rest on his laurels—the thought has never occurred to him.