Some of the best moments in our lives take place without any planning or structure. Stuff just happens and we’re left sizzling in the afterglow, jarred by what’s real for a change.
For the David Liebman Trio, a live performance turned out to be that sizzling moment. Thankfully recorded by Kris Roevens at De Singer in Rijkevorsel, this 2008 gig translates into one hell of a session. Featuring Liebman’s saxophone accompanied by Marius Beets on bass and Eric Ineke on drums, Lieb Plays the Blues a La Trane is a smouldering piece of work.
The music comes out of a “why not?” moment for the saxophonist’s group. “Arriving at this small club in Belgium and feeling a bit under the weather, I felt that we should play something different,” he explains in the liner notes. “As I try to do on these occasions, I like to have at least the thread of a story for a night’s repertoire.”
In this case, the thread is the blues of John Coltrane. Now Liebman had avoided recording Trane for many years until the late 80s, as seeing the man perform live in the 60s was his point of arrival. “By the late 80s, I felt ready to tackle it somewhat of my own terms,” he explains.
Fast-forward to an April night in Belgium and Coltrane’s blues vibe fuels some fun sans arrangements, sans structure. “With such a strong bass-drum team as Marius and Eric are, I knew that whatever transpired it would certainly swing,” says Liebman. “So no arrangements, just the heads and blow.”
And blow they do, right out and through five musical explosions that pour the fun back in your speakers as it should be.
Miles Davis’ “All Blues” is given the treatment first. With its basic blues chord sequence, Liebman and Co. attack the Kind of Blue piece with vigour. Liebman sinks his teeth hungrily in to Coltrane’s statements, gliding over Beets and Ineke’s steady underpinning.
The group takes appropriately Giant Steps through “Mr. P.C.,” with Ineke setting the bar pretty damn high with a thunderous, mammoth solo. Beets takes it first, moving through the ground walked by Paul Chambers with confidence and style. It’s a rollicking piece, one that encapsulates the spirit of the blues by allowing plenty of improvisational space over the cycle.
“Village Blues” loosens up Coltrane’s humbler blues from one of the genius’ least discussed Atlantic recordings. Ineke and Beets pull together nicely. Liebman blows fire and the groove is loose.
Liebman’s trio is all kinds of hot here. The recording’s spontaneity and power lends itself to big moments and big fun. The band moves through the spirit of Trane’s blues, invoking the soul of the form without the flowery extras and tossing the nonsense in favour of something that really blasts through to the heart.