Sunday, February 11, 2007

Dave Liebman - Back on the Corner (Tone Center, 2007)

Artists revisiting Miles Davis electrical recordings have become more common recently, and few are as well equipped to do so as saxophonist and composer Dave Liebman, who performed on several of the original Davis recordings in the 1970's. On this disc, he takes his inspiration from one of Davis's most challenging LP's, On the Corner on which featured dense electronic music and funky cover art. Liebman doesn't try to tread the same path as he did with Davis 30+ years ago, but uses that music as a reference point. He is accompanied by Vic Juris and Mike Stern on guitars, Anthony Jackson on contrabass guitar, Tony Marino on bass and Marko Marcinko on drums. Miles Davis and Teo Macero grafted together the original records from lengthy studio jams, and a band trying to recreate this spontaneity faces a daunting task. The Davis compositions "Ife" and "Black Satin" breathe in and out in a near organic manner, particularly on the latter where Liebman plays some swirling soprano saxophone over grinding guitar and insistent drumming. His original "Bela" has some very spacious playing, while "New Mambo" has very cool guitar and tenor saxophone solos. The bubbly funk that was the hallmark of the Davis music of this period is nearly absent until the final track, "J.B. Meets Sly/5th Street Reprise," where there is a beautiful electric guitar feature about four minutes in. A fleet soprano feature for the leader after the guitar spotlight makes this track the highlight of the album. This is definitely Liebman's own take on the music and not a by the numbers tribute. While the music lacks some of the organic bluesyness that made Davis's so groundbreaking, it is still a fairly successful album which should appeal to fans of electric jazz.

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