Ever since Miles Davis passed away in 1991, there's been endless Miles tribute albums by artists influenced by him whether by listening to him or even by playing with him. More recently, tribute albums have focused more on the enigmatic electric period and we even covered a few of them already, most recently one by David Stryker.
Jazz saxophonist Dave Liebman had already put out a nice Davis tribute album back in '94 called Miles Away. But thirteen years later, Liebman is back at it again but with a different twist: an album intended to recall not the In A Silent Way/Bitches Brew/Jack Johnson early electric period, but rather the more overlooked On The Corner/Get Up With It era. More precisely, the period of time Liebman himself was recording and touring in the Miles Davis band.
This was a good project to tackle, not just because the leader identifies so directly with the music that inspired this collection, but also because the period between 1970's Live-Evil and the dual live epics of 1975 (Agartha and Pangaea) remains a largely underappreciated and misunderstood section of Davis' vast work.
Dave Liebman grew up in the sixties playing tenor sax in a fifties rock 'n' roll setting until John Coltrane changed his outlook on music. Eventually, Liebman worked his way up the jazz scene, studying with Lennie Tristiano and Charles Lloyd and playing in Elvin Jones' band before first recording with Miles during the 1972 On The Corner sessions. Liebman's eighteen month stint in Miles' band began the following Janaury. Afterwards, Liebman has performed and recorded both as a band member for several groups and as a solo artists, covering a multitude of settings and flavors of jazz along the way.
While Liebman is more than capable on a variety of wind instruments, like the tenor saxophone and flute, his primary weapon of choice is the soprano sax, sounding to my ears closest to Lee Konitz and Steve Lacy. And like Lacy, he's shown a willingness to play outside but is equally comfortable in bop and naturally, fusion.
But back to Back On The Corner. For this project, Liebman wanted to capture the essence of Miles' music during his time in the band, of which he states "the main premise was the rhythm and texture with the elements of harmony and melody taking a back seat."