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Watch Dave Liebman cast a spell on a standard, in stellar company

Dave Liebman
Newvelle Records
Saxophonist, composer and NEA Jazz Master Dave Liebman, whose new album on Newvelle is 'Trust and Honesty.'

Fans of Dave Liebman's probing excursions into free jazz and post-bop will encounter a tender and reverential investigation into the American Songbook on Trust and Honesty.

The album, due out Friday as part of The Renewal Collection on Newvelle, finds the saxophonist and NEA Jazz Master in a new formation with a pair of aces, guitarist Ben Monder and bassist John Hébert.

Dave Liebman, Ben Monder, John Hebert
Newvelle Records
Ben Monder, Dave Liebman and John Hébert during the recording sessions for 'Trust and Honesty.'

"Playing free is a challenge, as the agenda concerns spontaneous composition," Liebman tells WRTI. "In this setting with standards, the horn sets the mood and is responsible for the main aspects of inspiration and information."

Liebman continues: "The other important thing here is that there are no drums. We were all responsible for the energy and aura, and that gave Ben a lot more responsibility, and John also had a lot more room to be the incredible soloist that he is. These songs are old chestnuts in many cases, but it is up to the musicians to make this music magical."

As a case in point, we're proud to premiere footage of this trio's version of "Come Rain or Come Shine," the standard by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer. Filmed at East Side Sound in New York, the video captures Liebman, Monder and Hébert at their moody and magical best.

Liebman's reading of the melody treads a similar interpretive territory as that of his former employer, Miles Davis (who once recorded the song behind a young Sarah Vaughan). A human and delicate sound rises from the soprano saxophone, with Monder and Hébert following steadily at every moment.

By the time Hébert takes over, the spell is cast. The bassist delivers melodic invention that never outruns his own rhythmic drive. However, Monder may be the trio's secret weapon, as his expert time keeping and subtle harmonic underpinning sustain a feeling from Beat One until the song's completion.

Trust and Honesty is due Friday as part of The Renewal Collection on Newvelle.

(A previous version of this post misidentified the album as "Truth and Honesty.")

Greg Bryant has been a longtime curator of improvisational music as a broadcaster, writer, host and musician. As a young child, he began absorbing the artistry of Miles Davis, Les McCann, Jimmy Smith, James Brown, Ornette Coleman, Weather Report, and Jimi Hendrix via his parent's record collection. He was so moved by what he was experiencing that he took pride in relaying all of his discoveries with anyone who would listen.