1 February 2016

Jazz Education Review: Dave Liebman Masterclass

Dave Liebman Masterclass

Brighton Jazz School Masterclass Series

The Verdict, Brighton

Sunday 24th January 2016, 4pm


    Beginning with an overview of his background, Liebman was, not surprisingly, full of stories and anecdotes about his life in jazz performing with the likes of Miles Davis and Elvin Jones.

    He began on piano at age 10 and was later inspired by rock ’n’ roll (and the pop tune Tequila) which influenced his choice of tenor saxophone. He became interested in jazz by studying at a local music school every Saturday and soon began his career playing in a dance band.

    His first life-changing moment came when he first saw John Coltrane & Eric Dolphy in 1961. But when Liebman was growing up as a musician, surrounded by jazz legends in 1960s New York, he found information hard to come by and musicians were generally uncommunicative. Some of his most interesting anecdotes were from his time studying with one of bebop’s earliest educators, jazz legend Lennie Tristano.

    After discussing his time playing free jazz, he explained his view of fusion music: “A rock ’n’ roll rhythm section will not interact with you the way that a jazz rhythm section will. A jazz rhythm section is supposed to interact. If I play something, it will help me out”.

    It was the concept of interplay in jazz that provided a large part of the masterclass and Liebman explained how he stimulates interaction from other players and how jazz is both interactive in a group but also soloistic. He also stressed the importance of the bass player in the jazz rhythm section: “You don’t become a bass player unless you’re selfless…The bass player has to draw the line between being interactive and taking care of business.”

    Towards the end of the masterclass there was time for more technical explanations and Lieb was generous enough to answer questions on topics such as playing modal music, learning jazz in a logical way and the ‘Roi du Monde’ moment.

    Liebman has always been an enlightening, larger than life character. Throughout the masterclass he was keen to share his story and to share his knowledge and experience of playing in the top tier of jazz, conscious of his own upbringing when knowledge was scarce and jazz musicians were often aloof.  Well done to all at Brighton Jazz School  for putting on another great masterclass.     Liebman is currently the 2015/16 International Jazz Artist in Residence at the Royal Academy of Music in London.


Charlie Anderson

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