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What It Is


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Dave Liebman was a founding member of New York City's "loft" jazz scene before securing a coveted role playing saxophone with John Coltrane's ex-drummer, Elvin Jones, and subsequently with legendary trumpeter Miles Davis and jazz pianist Chick Corea. Liebman was a founding member of the David Liebman Quintet, Quest, and other jazz groups. He is a recipient of the NEA Masters of Jazz in 2011, the Order of Arts and Letters - Officer grade - France in 2009, and an honorary doctorate of music from the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland in 1997. Lewis Porter is a jazz pianist, composer, and author. He has served as professor of music at Rutgers University in Newark since 1986, and he is the university's founder and director of the Master's Program in Jazz History and Research.


I came to admire the book as I read, and I am paying it the best tribute I can by giving it away -- to a new young friend, a saxophonist from Santa Cruz, who will also -- as I did -- learn from Liebman. I applaud Scarecrow for publishing such an in-depth portrait, and only wish (wistfully) that someone had been able to sit down with, say, Brew Moore or Benny Morton or a hundred others. But this book is a model of what can be done to illuminate jazz from the inside as well as chronicling one artist's passage through it. * Jazz Lives *
It is compelling reading for educators, musicians, and fans. * The New York City Jazz Record *
Creating a full picture of who Liebman is and what he's accomplished is an ongoing and incremental process, where a great many pieces must be put together like a complex jigsaw puzzle, including keeping abreast of a travel schedule for recording, performing and education that would wither most musicians half the near-66 year-old saxophonist's age. Thankfully, What It Is: The Life of a Jazz Artist is a long-overdue career retrospective-albeit one of an artist who is still very much a work in progress-that helps bring all these pieces, if not exactly together, then at least on the same board where it's possible to draw a number of important conclusions. * All About Jazz *
Dave Liebman has always been one of the smartest and most forthcoming musicians of his generation, and in his new book, What It Is: The Life of a Jazz Artist, the saxophonist and educator holds forth on his art, life and restless creative spirit with effortless candor and lyricism.... Liebman has a refreshingly down-to-earth view of his own legacy as a musician, but he recognizes the importance of his responsibility to properly instruct and influence the next generation of jazz talent.... Porter proves a skilled interviewer, gracefully guiding Liebman from topic to topic while occasionally contributing his own thoughts on the subjects at hand. The obvious conviviality of the interview sessions carries over to the reading experience itself, making What It Is a brisk, intelligent, always entertaining journey through the life of one of contemporary jazz's most inexhaustibly engaging artists. * JazzTimes Magazine *
The span of the book gives the impression of a man and artist who knows himself to the utmost, who has examined his efforts both artistic and personal to grow into the inspiring figure he has become, from player to educator to family man to globetrotting jazz lynchpin. * Ottawa Citizen *
On the final page of this never flagging and informative conversation the saxophonist tells his interlocutor about Miles Davis showing him a picture of Louis Armstrong and him (Miles) together and telling him (Liebman), "From him to me to you." That Liebman respects that same sense of obligation to his musical forebears is made abundantly clear throughout the volume as he relates his own history, which included associations with Miles, Elvin Jones, Ravi Coltrane, Joe Lovano, Michael and Randy Brecker, and many others, the New York loft jazz scene, and a day job as a New York substitute teacher. -- W. Royal Stokes
Liebman holds nothing back. He speaks frankly of having had polio, of John Coltrane's influence on him, of his lessons with Lennie Tristano, his time in Charles Lloyd's band, his work with Chick Corea and Elvin Jones, concerts and recordings with Miles Davis, his collaboration with Richie Beirach and John Scofield, of Lookout Farm and Quest, of his idea of teaching jazz and the state of jazz, of his activities at the International Association of Schools of Jazz, and much more. All of it oscillates between anecdotes and profound thought. Porter not only keeps topics going, most importantly, he knows what Liebman is talking about and follows up with the right questions, enabling readers unfamiliar with Liebman's career to follow the story, as well as asking the kinds of things an expert would like to know. * Jazzinstitut Darmstadt *

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