Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Quest - Circular Dreaming (Enja, 2013)

Saxophonist Dave Liebman and pianist Richie Bierach have been longtime compatriots, whether playing in each others groups or in cooperative groups like Pendulum or Quest. This lineup is rounded out by Ron McClure on bass and Billy Hart on drums and delves into the fertile songbook of Miles Davis’ second great quintet, which was active in the mid 1960’s. The album opens with “Pinocchio” featuring Liebman’s quicksilver swirling soprano saxophone, supported by strong percussive piano, bass and drums. This makes for a powerful and attention getting first track with an excellent saxophone solo. “Prince of Darkness” throttles things back a bit, for a moodier statement with solos from McClure and Liebman. Wayne Shorter’s famous composition “Footprints” engages everyone in the group to their very highest level. Refracting the song into jagged shards builds tension in an excellent way, resolved by Liebman, now on tenor saxophone, coming in strong and teasing the melody while leading the razor sharp band through its paces. Liebman digs deep showing his Coltrane influence, deep and protean, before stepping aside for the piano trio and a fine solo from Hart. An explosive and memorable performance all around and the highlight of this album. “Hand Jive” sets the tempo as medium-up on saxophone where Liebman keeps things interesting by playing “squiggly” lines that swoop and sway and seemingly never do as expected. This is one of the aspects of the band when they are at their best, taking the source material and melding it like clay into something of their own. Some of the ballads on the latter half of the album don’t soar quite as much, but at their most powerful, this is a formidable band that makes memorable music. Circular Dreaming -

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