Jean-Marie Machado / Dave Liebman: Eternal Moments (2010)
As Dave Liebman approaches the beginning of 2011, and his Jazz Masters Award from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), his discography continues to grow in unexpected and rapid leaps and bounds, with each release further affirming his stylistic and contextual breadth. He's collaborated with French pianist Jean-Marie Machado since 2003, largely in the intimate context of the duo, though there have been rumblings about a collaboration with a symphony orchestra. Eternal Moments is the pair's second release, following 2008's Caminando (on the Austrian PAO label), but is the first to receive wider international distribution thanks to the French Bee Jazz label. It's also, perhaps, a closer reflection of where the duo is now, released a little more than a year after its May, 2009 recording date, as opposed to Caminando, which took four years to see the light of day.
Liebman's reputation as a wildly expressionistic performer is intact on brighter, more assertive tracks like a surprising adaptation of classical composer Maurice Ravel's "Le Reveil de la Mariee," a modal workout whose arrangement could easily be imagined in the context of one of Liebman's heroes, John Coltranethough, as always, Liebman's avoidance of pure sheets of sound for more inherent (albeit raw and unfettered) melodism creates a distance that's always been a part of Liebman's more expansive musical palette. It's also an album high point for Machado, whose combination of blocky left-hand chords and deft right-hand explorations suggest that, though he may be channeling McCoy Tyner to some extent, it's always through a personal filter which, like Liebman's, is more inherently thematic in focus, even when approaching those great extremes.
Elsewhere, Eternal Moments recalls '70s ECM duo recordings like pianist Art Lande's still-classic duo disc with saxophonist Jan Garbarek, Red Lanta (1974), especially on moodier, impressionistic tracks like Machado's opening "Little Dog Waltz," and his brighter "Les Yeux de Tangati," which features Liebman's wooden flute on its intro, before he turns again to soprano saxophone when the song's true form emerges. Still, with Liebman's warmer, less bone-dry soprano tone and an entirely different stylistic emphasis, it's only one touchstone on an album that also continues, with the mournful lyricism of "Só a Noitinha (Saudades de Ti)," the team's exploration of the Portuguese fado tradition.
A combination of classicism and the engineering work of Studio La Buissonne's Gérard de Harowho has participated on recent ECM recordings like Tomasz Stańko's Lontanoand Nik Bärtsch's Stoa (2006)brings similar pristine clarity and transparency to this recording, in particular on Machado's dark-hued closer, "Moment Calme," where both players' economies and attention to tone, decay and silence are especially compelling.
That Liebman's name holds greater cachet shouldn't suggest an imbalance of power. Eternal Moments, is clearly a collective, democratic affair, and one which deserves to push Machado's name towards greater visibility as much as it affirms Liebman's reputation as one of the true greats of his generation.
Track Listing: Little Dog Waltz; Les Yeux de Tangati; The Gravel and the Bird; Le Reveil de la Mariee; Só a Noitinha (Saudades de Ti); Ugly Beauty; Fuschia; Blue Space; Moment Calme.
Personnel: Dave Liebman: saxophones, wooden flutes; Jean-Marie Machado: piano.