DAVID LIEBMAN Plays Puccini: A Walk In the Clouds

Catalog# 71044

UPC# 602267104424

David Liebman: Saxophones; Phil Woods: Alto sax and clarinet;

Vic Juris: Guitar; Matt Wilson: Drums;

Phil Markowitz: Keyboards; Tony Marino: Bass;

Lenora Zenzalai Helm: Vocals; Jamey Haddad: Percussion;

Sizao Machado: Percussion; Dane Richeson: Percussion;

Caris Visentin: Oboe; Larry Fisher: Bassoon; Nancy Hambleton-Torrente: Cello


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Grammy nominated Jazz Saxophone virtuoso David Liebman (a former member of Miles Davis’ group), with special friends Phil Woods, Vic Juris, Lenora Zenzalai Helm, and others, take some of the greatest arias of Italian opera composer Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924) and reinterpret them in the Jazz idiom on this unique Arkadia Records album. Entitled “David Liebman Plays Puccini: A Walk in the Clouds”, the recording features arias from “Madam Butterfly”, “La Boheme”, “Turandot”, and “Tosca”, amongst others.

…passionate and rhythmically interesting Jazz belonging to one of America’s most adventurous musicians. Interesting rhythms are as synonymous with Liebman’s recordings as his name is with soprano saxophone… Liebman is a great player and conceptualist whose work always deserves hearing… any listener can be thankful for time spent this close to someone who’s lived his love of music so faithfully.” – Jazz Steps Magazine

The combination of opera arias being performed in the fluid language of Jazz is a novel and ambitious musical achievement. Saxophone legend Dave Liebman creates a textured album that satisfies the Jazz fan while reaching out to Opera lovers, who will find this album to be a refreshing and innovative reinvention of their Italian classics. This impressive fusion of Puccini compositions and Liebman’s uninhibited Jazz artistry blend into a thoughtful and soulful album. “David Liebman Plays Puccini: A Walk in the Clouds” will satisfy open-minded fans of both musical traditions.

Song Selection:

  1. Opera: La Boheme
    Aria: Quando M’en Vo (Musetta’s Waltz) – 5:58
  2. Opera: Tosca
    Aria: Come E Lunga L’Attesa (How Long The Wait) – 6:21
  3. Opera: Turandot
    Aria: Nessum Dorma (None Shall Sleep) – 4:37
  4. Opera: Tosca
    Aria: E Luce Van Le Stelle (The Stars Were Shining) – 7:36
  5. Opera: Tosca
    Aria: Tre Sbirri (Three Agents) – 8:09
  6. Opera: Gianni Schicci
    Aria: O Mio Babbino Caro (Oh, My Beloved Daddy) – 3:25
  7. Opera: Turandot
    Aria: In Questa Reggia (Within This Place) – 5:47
  8. Opera: Madame Butterfly
    Aria: Un Bel Di, Vedremo (One Fine Day He’ll Come) – 5:21
  9. Opera: Madame Butterfly
    Aria: Vogliamenti Bene (Love Me, Please) – 6:32
  10. Opera: Madame Butterfly
    Aria: Ancora Un Passo (One More Step) – 5:52
  11. Opera: Tosca
    Aria: Vissi D’Arte (I Lived For Music and Love) – 5:25

David Liebman: Saxophones
Phil Woods: Alto sax and clarinet
Vic Juris: Guitar
Phil Markowitz: Keyboards
Tony Marino: Bass
Matt Wilson: Drums
Lenora Zenzalai Helm: Vocals
Jamey Haddad: Percussion
Dane Richeson: Percussion
Nancy Hambleton-Torrente: Cello
Caris Visentin: Oboe
Larry Fisher: Bassoon
Sizao Machado: Percussion

Produced by: Bob Karcy
Total Time: 67:21

Washington Post review: Arts Section

“David Liebman: Liebman Plays Puccini – A Walk in the Clouds” – By Steve Futterman

“There’s a whole world of music out there waiting to be transformed into personal song by willing interpreters, but judging from the basic repertoire of mainstream jazz, you might never know it. If the dearth of truly distinctive contemporary jazz composers is a commonplace grumble, the reliance on popular standards composed from the 1930’s to the late ’50s – the so-called golden age of American songwriting – can grow just as irksome.

Is the music of Berlin, Porter, Arlen and a host of other luminaries just as gorgeous today as when written, and does it still provide as solid a framework on which to improvise? No question. But the repertoire could, by now, use a dose of fresh, revivifying blood, just for variety’s sake. And the resources can be found most anywhere.

Which brings us to Dave Liebman. On two recent recordings, “The Unknown Jobim” and ““Liebman Plays Puccini: A Walk in the Clouds”, the saxophonist dives headfirst into a deep pool of sumptuous melody provided by two brilliant composers, whose only apparent connection is Liebman’s far-ranging musical interests.

Best known from his early-1970s work with Miles Davis, Liebman has spent his time since then carving out a career that defines unpredictability. His provocative recordings have veered in multiple directions, incorporating Liebman’s admitted fascinations with the worlds of jazz, rock, ethnic and contemporary classical music. What binds these many albums-and Liebman is nothing if not prolific-is his world-class playing. Concentrating at one point exclusively on the soprano saxophone, Liebman has, thankfully, since returned to the tenor sax. He gets a voluptuous sound from both horns and speaks in a stylistic dialect that draws on modern jazz in all its permutations while retaining its own steadfast personality.

The Giacomo Puccini material is drawn from arias in such classic operas as “Tosca”, “La Boheme”, and “Turandot”. The music is radically transformed, of course, but the timeless grace of the melodies is always respected and communicated with undisguised love. Stunning tunes such as “Vissi d’arte” may not yet have their place in the jazz repertoire, but Liebman more than proves that they deserve to be there.

About Dave Liebman:

As a teenager, when he first caught sight (and sound) of John Coltrane playing at New York’s famous Birdland Club, David Liebman fell instantly in love with jazz. A virtuoso on the soprano sax, and an innovative composer, Lieb’s attachment to jazz has always been something more than musical. The spirit behind the music and the community of musicians and listeners all figure into his life in jazz.

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.

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