Ir al contenido principal

A Conversation with Dave Liebman




"The world is crazy now, but we have the music to keep us together"




Dave Liebman and Jerry González (Madrid, 2018). © Mirian Arbalejo






One of the most rewarding experiences that our little four-letters universe can provide is confirming there are still figures who embody all the values and attributes of jazz, beyond the music itself. Anyone who knows him knows that Dave Liebman (New York, 1946) is one of those artists.
Even though having the opportunity to meet a NEA Jazz Master—with a myriad of awards that go from a Doctor Honoris Causa to the most renowned honors in interpretation, jazz dissemination, teaching or composition—doesn’t happen every day, the truth is that the value of the encounters with Liebman have nothing to do with his awards or with his name appearing in more than 500 records of various musical genders.
His love and commitment to what he does, his support to young musicians, his faith in the dissemination of jazz, his determination to be available to other musicians, his generosity shaped in notes or words… All of this is what defines the jazzman that leaves a mark.

***


I feel the need to mention something significant to all of us: I took the accompanying picture a little before sitting in that couch with Dave Liebman. It was the last time I saw Jerry González.
He came to visit Liebman, along with his crutches and a mournful, almost guarded, grimace, but all dolled up.
They talked easily. Comfortably. In a bubble of such informality, that it seemed to create a shield against possible interruptions.
When Jerry left, Dave Liebman kept looking ahead murmuring “Everybody knows Jerry”. He was deeply sorry about the fact he could no longer play. We talked about his career, about his band Fort Apache, about the influence of his music.
Later on, when we picked up a pending chat about John Coltrane’s lost album, I asked his permission to record the rest of our conversation. Here you have it.


***



Mirian Arbalejo: A few hours ago, we agreed to talk about John Coltrane’s last record, though it’s not really an album, but a record session. I’m a bit obsessed with the first tune, 11383.
Dave Liebman: I don't know the order...
MA: It's the new tune.
DL: But the truth is the order doesn't matter anything, because it was a studio session, it's not like Coltrane decided the order, because they did it and they forgot it, obviously, they found it now.
MA: He never thought “I’m going to create 'a whole' with this” …
DL: He did all the records where, obviously, he decided on what order of tunes, but this was obviously just take one, take two, three... It was a session, and they just recorded it and then it disappeared. But it's great to see this because it's like finding a Mozart opera in somebody's roof, you know? in the top of their home, so they go "oh god this is Mozart!". This is like that, it's finding, like, part of the Bible.
MA: Something like that, yeah.
DL: Because that period of Coltrane is, as the record say, it's a little bit of the future... what he would be doing in two years, in 64, 65, and a little bit of the past... the [Slow] Blues, Impressions, that standard [Nature Boy], Vilia... It's really both sides, it's a very good title, they did a good job.
MA: Yeah, Both Directions at Once, that's for sure.
DL: And I saw him a lot in this period, it's very representative of what he was doing, the record. It is what he was playing in the club that night. They always played Impressions, they always played My favorite things, they always played Naima. If you stayed for three sets you'd hear pretty much the same repertoire, cause the older jazz musicians repeated tunes, they did it every night.
MA: But not the same way.
DL: Miles played So What for 6-8 years, but NOT in the same way, exactly. So when you'd hear it you'd go, like, it's a little different but it's not really different, you know? Also, short versions… When you saw Coltrane live, Impressions could be an hour and a half! I saw, one time, he did a duet with Elvin Jones for 45 minutes on Impressions. So, here, on the record, it's 4 or 5 minutes, so it's very interesting to see how he put it into such a short period, so, so interesting, because in the club he played long, but in the record, because you have a short time you have to lighten it. Specially Impressions, he was very careful: five minutes, next, take 2, six minutes, take 3, four and a half minutes. Very unusual for Coltrane, but in the studio, he knew how to record, and he was a real professional, he learned from Miles. When he got to the studio, that, like, holy territory, he really had to do it right, he was very good, he knew how to record, Trane... Cause Miles, cause he saw Miles do it. That's how you learn, by watching somebody who knows what they're doing.
MA: I need to mention something about the album, because I have this approach about the Both Directions CD. Every year I write a piece about my favorite albums...
DL: ... The poll, the records of the year…
MA: Yes, I never say the best albums, I say my favorite albums, because that's the way it is...
DL: … Yes, of course.
MA: This year, I have listened to a lot of very, very good music.
DL: Yeah, there's a lot of great music
MA: New music that I love, but this year I have this new John Coltrane album, and I have this new Woody Shaw album…
DL: … In Paris?
MA: Tokyo '81
DL: I don’t know it, but I know [what you mean] …
MA: It's amazing because it had not been published before, it's the first time this album comes to light.
DL: Is that Resonance? The label Resonance? The record label, they released that, right? Who else is playing?
MA: Mmm… wait… I’ve just listened to it and I don’t remember the names… It’s a quintet. Wait a second, I don’t want to get it wrong… I can't find it now, sorry, there’s no signal, sorry. So, about the piece on Records of the year, it's very exciting to me, because this time I have this music by John Coltrane, by Woody Shaw, that is NEW to our ears.
DL: Yeah, specially for the new generation that doesn't know Coltrane.
MA: I have to write about my favorite albums and I'm trying to approach them from a contemporary angle.
DL: Today.
MA: Today, now, here. And it's a little hard, but it's very exciting, because there’s a new tune by John Coltrane I had never listened to before…
DL: …That’s right.
MA: And I'm not biased because of the big names, I think it's incredible today, you know what I mean? As a listener, today, it's incredible.
DL: Yes, it is, that's right! It's 50 years old but it feels like it was done yesterday. That's what makes music- that's how you know a great artist, if it's there 20, 30, 40 years later and you still think it's fantastic.
MA: Timeless.
DL: Yeah.
MA: It's Dostoyevsky, it's Homer... I'm with you on this.
DL: Picasso, Van Gogh, whatever. And Coltrane was of course in that category, but this is a reminder to your generation, who he was. My generation, I mean, I was there, but for a new generation it's great to hear this guy, cause it's new music, to them it's new, and to hear the way he plays, and his soulfulness. Plus, of course, the music, technically it's unbelievable, but his passion, and the whole group, that group, McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, Elvin Jones, they were just... they played every night, they played forty weeks a year. Elvin told me they played 40-45 weeks a year, out of 52 weeks, so they knew each other, you can hear that on the record. The other thing is, everything swings, the feel is so good, you don't hear that now, it's changed; 50 years later it's different. But the swinging, the feel… it's so beautiful.
MA: Yeah, we must be grateful, I think.
DL: Absolutely.
MA: I have been reading some reviews and I have learned from some of them, but I have found some nonsense, saying this album "is not a big deal", and I can't agree, cause I think it is.
DL: It IS a big deal, it's a very big deal, because your generation doesn't know Coltrane, it's a new recording, it's like when Miles stopped playing for 5 years, 1975 to 1980, he didn't play. When he came back, a whole generation could say "I saw Miles playing, it's real". This is a little bit like that, I heard Coltrane, it's like, today, so it's very important for that reason.
MA: I love your generation, your music and all the good musicians that came before and after; I told you I love Duke Ellington, but I am a lucky girl because I've seen Sonny Rollins live three times.
DL: So you saw history, yeah.
MA: Yes, and I met him, I talked to him, but listening to his music there, live, it was something that changed me forever in the way I write about music.
DL: You got the right guy.
MA: [laughing] Yeah, absolutely.
DL: He's got health problems now.
MA: Yes, I'm so sorry.
DL: Yeah, he can't play anymore.
MA: We need him.
DL: I agree, I agree.
MA: We truly need him. He has these videos about life-
DL: …Yeah, they're coming now.
MA: He's very wise, a very wise man, but his music, I need his music like I need air, really.
DL: You're very sensitive, that's... I'm glad to hear that you write and you're sensitive, cause that's what we need, people who feel the music, who can really feel what jazz is about. That is really great, that is top level.
MA: This music has something different, every music is different even if you play the same tune, as we discussed before, and when you come to Madrid, I find you with a lot of different musicians, at Bogui Jazz, here, there, and you can speak this language and change your language if it's necessary.
DL: You got it right, that's right, it's universal.
MA: And I don’t know what it’s like... you have this ability to play this different kind of music with different kind of guys... I'm curious about your way of living everyday with this music being...
DL: New start every day.
MA: Yes! But this music is with you every day, so... I'm very curious about your way of living everyday with this.
DL: It's my job, I am part of the history of music, of jazz, it's my job to be dedicated to music and to bring it to people, like you, and to bring it to students, and that's, um, my responsibility. I look at it as a responsibility, I mean, I'm honored, privileged to have been with people- I have played with... There are not many people like me and my job is to bring it to you. And like tonight, these people [Sergio Pamies, Jordi Gaspar, Gonzalo del Val] seemed to enjoy it and I hope, you know, they remember it, it's all, it's the best we can do, I mean, we never played together until tonight, it's the first time we played.
MA: And look at that!
DL: Pretty good, though, pretty good.
MA: Yeah.
DL: Good musicians, very good at their job, everybody good, I had a good time, and the people were very receptive. And these guys playing [Alain Pérez, Caramelo y Piraña], they're masters at what they do so, you know, the world is crazy now, but we have the music to keep us together. People love the music, we still have that, they will never go away, the world changes and gets fucked up or weird, we still have this music, we still have this. [Music is playing in the background] What's playing now is beautiful.
MA: Yeah, it's beautiful. You know, a few weeks ago I had a conversation with Ethan Iverson. I was looking forward to our meeting because he's a musician but he's also…
DL: … A writer.
MA: A writer. And I'm very worried in the way things are happening around music.
DL: Around the world.
MA: Yes, I'm worried about the way music is treated in my country, but I asked him about his experience because it's like music doesn't matter anymore, we're not taking care of it. We have to take the best care and we are not doing it, and you are surviving and fighting, but I'm worried. I wanted to know your opinion on this.
DL: That is right, we're all worried, everything is upside down, and mixed up, and the air, the environment, the people, the politics, it's a very difficult period.
MA: It's something systemic, right?
DL: It's systemic, yeah, and hopefully it will get better, but it's really not a good time. But for some people it's a great time and things are too... it's chaotic, it's impossible, it's news every minute, I mean, now we see the world because of a computer, we used to only know, you knew [what happened in] Madrid, maybe, now everything is, in ten minutes the whole world is in your hand, on your phone, and that's what's going on, too much information. But we can't control it, because now you can get the information in ten minutes, so it's a problem.



© Mirian Arbalejo


My gratitude to Dave Liebman, Gonzalo del Val and Cristina Moreno.



Comentarios

Entradas populares de este blog

20 Buenos Discos de 2018

Del privilegio que supone haber escuchado tanta música valiosa, emocionante, atrevida, salvada de unas cajas o revelada en pleno insomnio, la única frustración que nos queda a quienes la devoramos es la certeza de que jamás podremos escuchar todos y cada uno de los discos creados a lo largo del año en el planeta. Es una de las razones por las que esta ya tradicional lista que publico el último día del año no lleva el familiar título de "los mejores discos del años". Son mis favoritos de entre algunos centenares. Tanta música de calidad llega a mí cada año... Ojala existiera la posibilidad de hablar de toda.
Comenzaba 2018 con un disco en mis manos: Love, Time and Divination, del cuarteto de Nueva Orleans liderado por el trombonista Mark McGrain. Un disco que resultó siendo realmente significativo y lúcido en su título respecto a lo que estaba por venir: un encuentro entre la tradición y el presente, una apuesta por sacar adelante un trabajo en que el músico cree. 

Cada vez más…

El triunfo de lo mediocre

"Otras cosas ansía tu alma, por otras llora..."Constantino Kavafis


Hace más de 2.500 años, el ser humano aspiraba a la virtud. En Grecia lo denominaban areté. Se trataba de un concepto profundamente arraigado para alcanzar un ideal de ser, de actuar y de llegar a ser.

No es de extrañar que el modelo humano a seguir fuera aquel que consiguiera acercarse e incluso encarnar lo bello y lo bueno (kalós kai agathós), comprendiendo este concepto múltiples facetas personales, sociales y artísticas. La música y el resto de las artes estaban relacionadas con la Filosofía, y, de hecho, poco después Platón completó este canon con su principio metafísico de aspirar a la Idea del Bien.

De modo que nos encontramos ante una sociedad que desea actuar con nobleza, conocer las artes, crear belleza y aspirar al bien. Rara vez se crea arte por complacer a una masa; las artes intentan recrean lo mejor de cuanto rodea al ser humano, ya sea esto físico, sensible o intelectual. No hay que olvidar que l…

'Between Places'

Estos últimos meses he estado acordándome de un capítulo de la serie Perdidos (LOST, 2004 - 2010). Su título es “?” y en él aparece una joven que vuelve a la vida tras haberse ahogado. Tiene después una conversación con uno de los personajes principales de la serie (Mr. Eko), haciéndole llegar un mensaje de Yemi, el hermano muerto de Eko, con quien supuestamente se encontró cuando estaba “between places”, o sea, entre sitios; en este caso entre dos mundos: el de los vivos y el de los muertos.

Between places es la respuesta que podría dar básicamente a cualquier pregunta relacionada con cualquiera de mis aventuras y desventuras; sospecho que muchos de vosotros os veréis identificados con la expresión.




Una de las razones por las que os debía un texto aquí es volver a comunicarme con vosotros tras mi descanso en redes sociales (que, por cierto, son el paradigma del “entre lugares”: ni son la realidad ni dejan de reflejarla). Por ahora Facebook sigue autovetado por la montaña de tropelías e…

Leonard Bernstein y el Jazz (I). Prólogo: '2018, Año Bernstein'

Quincy Jones, 'Giant Steps', Slonimsky y John Coltrane

Supongo que ya todos los presentes están enterados de las tres entrevistas a Quincy Jones que se han publicado en menos de dos semanas. Si no es así (o simplemente os apetece repasarlas) no dejéis de leerlas (por ahora sólo en inglés).






La primera y la tercera han sido publicadas en las ediciones estadounidense y británica de GQ el 29 de enero y 10 de febrero). La segunda entrevista (del 7 de febrero) la encontraréis en la revista Vulture. Esta última tiene la clave para la razón de ser de este artículo que estáis leyendo.
Evidentemente, el material que se ofrece en entrevistas tan extensas a una personalidad locuaz y con tal bagaje musical y vital como Quincy Jones no podía pasar inadvertido. El productor, compositor, arreglista, intérprete, etc, etc, ect ha estado y sigue estando a sus casi 85 años en todos los saraos imaginables y, lo que es aún mejor para nosotros como lectores, en los inimaginables. En ese sentido la entrevista más completa es la que corresponde a la larga charla co…

Leonard Bernstein y el Jazz: Anexo II. 'Bernstein Is On Town Again’. Moisés P. Sánchez Ensemble

«La vida tiene muchas compensaciones» —Leonard Bernstein (carta a David Diamond)
«Una obra no deja de ser una instantánea de la vida de su autor» —Moisés P. Sánchez (conversación personal)






Posiblemente el mayor tesoro que un ser humano puede dejar es un legado. Cuando encontramos que esta herencia es extraordinaria, lo cabal es celebrarlo.

Por eso 2018 no es un año más. No. Es el año Bernstein. Festejamos que un 25 de agosto de 1918 nacía Leonard Bernstein (Louis Bernstein en ese momento), un hombre que dejó un legado humano y, especialmente, musical pleno en riqueza, importancia y atemporalidad.


Uno de los homenajes a este legado ha tenido lugar en Madrid por parte del Moisés P. Sánchez Ensemble dentro del festival Veranos de la Villa. Es importante marcar la peculiaridad de este concierto, en el que no se interpretaron obras del compositor per se, sino que se presentó una composición original inspirada en el caleidoscopio humano y musical que fue Leonard Bernstein. 

Con la obra Bernstein…

El incidente

Nada cautiva más al ser humano que una buena historia. Si ésta resulta además ser verídica, nuestro interés aumenta y también lo hace nuestra inclinación a compartirla con otros. La aún joven historia del jazz ha dejado cientos de anécdotas memorables, muchas de ellas de naturaleza casi cinematográfica: desde el asesinato de un músico por haber bebido un licor envenenado dirigido a otra víctima hasta la composición de una suite y posterior creación de un único ejemplar de un disco de vinilo para conmemorar haber conocido a una persona. Hechos brutales o sublimes, pero hechos humanos en todo caso. Cuando hace unos días hablábamossobre la figura de Juan Tizol en la seriesobre estándares de jazz, se mencionó, a propósito de los contrastes en su biografía y en su carácter, la navaja que a menudo portaba, y tras la referencia que se hizo respecto a un incidente con el contrabajista Charles Mingus, se despertó el interés de algunos lectores.
Tanto Tizol como Mingus fueron hombres de fuerte car…

Más Sobre Mujeres en el Jazz: Una lista musical

Los que me acompañáis desde hace años conocéis ya los grandes clásicos del tema; frases expresadas tan ricamente con las que he tenido que lidiar a menudo:


«Pero eso del jazz, ¿no es de tíos?»
«Pues para ser una mujer toca bastante bien»
«Sé que hay una mujer que toca bien pero no recuerdo el nombre»

El diálogo más reciente al respecto fue tal que así:


—Qué pena que las mujeres no se animen [a tocar jazz].
—Hay muchas mujeres que crean jazz de altísimo nivel.
—Pero no me refiero a las cantantes.


Queridas vocalistas de jazz, no sé muy bien en qué categoría entráis para mi interlocutor y, sinceramente, no estuve interesada en preguntarlo.


Este dislate sobre la realidad musical es por desgracia común. También es anacrónico, incierto y agraviante. Es un tema que he visitado a menudo y en el que he tomado medidas activas. Pero, obviamente, es trabajo de muchos alcanzar una cierta normalidad en este asunto. (Tengo un artículo extenso en el que estudio varios hechos a mi entender significativos y ref…

Estándares de Jazz: 4. 'Caravan'

En ocasiones una decisión que puede en principio parecernos personal, simple y de repercusiones limitadas acaba teniendo un alcance imprevisto.

Imaginemos a un niño nacido en el Puerto Rico de 1900 en el seno de una familia de músicos.

Su tío, Manuel Tizol Márquez, era entonces considerado la figura puertorriqueña más destacada de la música instrumental tanto en el repertorio clásico como en el popular. El pequeño Juan Tizol —según testimonio propio— participaba en la banda de su tío Manuel cuando contaba con tan solo 8 años, y fue posiblemente por aquel entonces cuando tomó una decisión que habría de tener influencia tanto en su carrera como en la evolución de la música americana del siglo XX. La simple pero definitiva elección del pequeño Juan Tizol consistió en dejar el violín para entregarse al trombón de pistones, instrumento al que dedicó el resto de su vida.

En 1920 viajó junto con su orquesta a los EE UU, donde, pese a no conocer el idioma —refiriéndonos con idioma tanto a la len…

Leonard Bernstein y el Jazz (II). El pequeño Lenny

Hay algo al intentar escribir sobre la vida de Leonard Bernstein que recuerda a ese realismo mágico tan presente en los autorelatos de las vidas de Louis Armstrong o Duke Ellington. Y, sí, reconozco el anacronismo aquí pero qué puedo hacer yo si el realismo mágico ya existía en básicamente cada palabra que estos músicos elegían para contar los eventos de sus vidas.


Quede claro que con la fecha de nacimiento este año no se juega; quiero decir con esto que sí, que Armstrong lo hizo, diciendo que había nacido un mes antes para darle un toque romántico porque si le hacíamos caso correspondía al 4 de julio, con lo que, básicamente, aún se celebraría su nacimiento en EE UU con fuegos artificiales. Pero Leonard Bernstein nació un 25 de agosto de 1918. Así sucedió. Sin duda. Estamos celebrando el centenario de su nacimiento en el momento correcto.


De todas formas, en el caso de Bernstein, para encontrar algún ejemplo entre lo real y otras materias, también podemos recurrir a su llegada a este m…