Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
He is one of the leading players and teachers of jazz. He first came to prominence with Elvin Jones and Miles Davis (1971-1974). Since then, he has recorded in every context, from free jazz to fusion to standards, and has taught all over the world.
His parents were both New York City public school teachers, Frances Liebman (born 1913) and Leo Liebman (Born 1907). His brother Paul Liebman was born in 1942. Dave began classical piano lessons at 9, saxophone at 12. He also studied clarinet and flute. Among his teachers were Nat Shapiro-1958-1963, Buster Bromley-1962-64, Eric Bromley-1962-64, Joe Allard-1964-on, Lennie Tristano-1966, and Charles Lloyd-1967-68.
At 13 he began performing at Catskills resorts and club dates around the New York area with a band called the Impromptu Quartet. He saw Coltrane many times and was profoundly inspired by him. He made his first jazz recording in 1967, with a group of Swedish musicians whom he met during his first trip to Europe. Mike Garson was his first jazz friend and connected him with Lennie Tristano. Lonnie Ruthstein was first true jazz drummer he knew, being a kind of a mentor for Liebman and others doing gigs at Catskills resorts. Liebman was also mentored through Jazz Interactions, run by Alan Pepper, who presented Liebman in concert with a prize winning youth all stars quintet at Red Garter near NYU in 1968 with Randy Brecker, Cameron Brown, Garson and Ruthstein. Later in '68 they were placed opposite Roland Kirk and Elvin Jones in Town Hall, Liebman's first big concert. Besides Tristano, he studied with Joe Allard and Charles Lloyd while graduating from NYU with a degree in American History in 1968 and getting a teaching diploma so he could do occasional substitute teaching.
In 1969, he began the apprenticeship process in earnest freelancing with drummer Pete LaRoca in a quartet that pianists and bassists like Chick Corea, Steve Swallow, Dave Holland, Jimmy Garrison, etc. Immersed in the New York loft jazz scene with a place on West 19th St., he played the key role in founding Free Life Communication, a non-profit musicians' cooperative in which he served as President. In 1970 he founded the Open Sky Trio with Bob Moses, and began earning a full time living in the rock/jazz band Ten Wheel Drive. He worked with Elvin Jones from 1971-73 when he received a call from Teo Macero to come immediately to the studio on 52nd St., where Davis had him play without any instruction (or even headphones) for what became the seminal On the Corner recording. When Davis asked him to leave Jones he declined until six months later when Davis came to the Village Vanguard and asked Jones directly to let him go. His first gig with Davis was that weekend at the last public concert at the Fillmore East. After a year and a half with Davis, he formed Lookout Farm with Richard Bierach and toured India, Japan, Europe and the U.S. The group coauthored a book in which they analyze their own performances, a model for a much needed kind of study. Sadly, nobody else has followed this example.) The 1976 Down Beat International Critics' Poll selected Lookout Farm as the Group Most Deserving of Wider Recognition. After this he tried a totally different tack, a commercial band with ex-James Brown saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis moving to the West Coast with a big record deal which was ultimately unsuccessful.
In 1978, upon his return from a world tour with Chick Corea, featuring a string quartet and a brass section, Liebman formed a quintet, which featured at times John Scofield, Kenny Kirkland, Adam Nussbaum and others. After several world tours and recordings with the group, Liebman reunited with Beirach. They began performing and recording as a duo, before forming Quest with George Mraz and Al Foster in 1981. In 1980, he decided to concentrate exclusively on the soprano sax, which he did for the next fifteen years. Since the 1970s, he has consistently placed in the top five of the Down Beat Critics' Poll of soprano saxophonists. In 1984 Quest took on a new formation with Ron McClure and Billy Hart joining the group. Over the course of the next seven years, the band toured extensively, and conducted many workshops around the world.
In addition to playing with his bands, he often appears in Europe performing with the likes of international artists such as Joachim Kuhn, Daniel Humair, Jon Christensen, Bobo Stenson, Paolo Fresu and Michel Portal. Playing with the WDR Symphony Orchestra (Germany) as well as several chamber ensembles and big bands, he has recorded a number of works specially written to feature his soprano saxophone style. He has received two NEA grants, for composition (1980) and performance (1991). Since 1991, he has led The Dave Liebman Group, originally with Vic Juris, Jamey Haddad, Phil Markowitz and Tony Marino on bass. As of 2000, drummer Marko Marcinko replaced Haddad. The band has toured Europe, Japan and Israel. He records prolifically with dozens of albums under his own leadership and nearly 300 as sideperson. A dedicated teacher, he has run a master saxophone class at East Stroudsburg University every summer since (1987). In 1989, he founded the International Association of Schools of Jazz (IASJ) with members from nearly 40 different countries. This organization is essentially a jazz-school network connecting educators and students from around the globe through periodic meetings, exchange programs, and newsletters. He has written and published books on a variety of subjects, produced instructional DVDs and contributed regularly to various periodicals such as the Saxophone Journal and the Jazz Educators' Journal. In recognition of his talents and accomplishments, the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland bestowed on him an honorary doctorate in May 1997. In 1996 he began performing on the tenor again.
His wife is Caris Visentin Liebman-Oboe/English Horn, Composer; his daughter is Lydia Nicole Liebman (b.1991)-voice and piano. Lydia sang at the COTA Festival in September 2007, accompanied by her father on piano.
1980: National Endowment of the Arts Grant for Composition
1988: Record of the Year from the French Jazz Academy for "Homage to Coltrane"(Owl Records)
1991: National Endowment of the Arts Grant for Performance
1997: Honorary Doctorate of Music from the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland; the first ever given to a jazz artist.
1998: Grammy nomination in the category of Best Jazz Solo for the recording of "My Favorite Things" from Thank You, John (Arkadia Records).
2000: Inducted into the Hall of Fame of the International Association of Jazz Educators for contributions to jazz pedagogy.
2001: Fred Waring Award from Celebration of the Arts, which organizes a yearly festival in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania where Liebman resides for outstanding contributions to the arts and community.
2004: Grammy nomination for Jim McNeely arrangement of "Sing, Sing, Sing" from Beyond the Line recording by the David Liebman Big Band.
2005: Pennsylvania Council of the Arts Grant to individual artists.
Advisory Boards and faculty position:
Graduate faculty - Manhattan School of Music
Jazz Improv Board of Advisors
The Jazz Alliance
International Society for Improvised Music
Pennsylvania Regional Jazz Coalition
American Jazz Venue
Selected recordings and published materials
As a side man:
Live at the Lighthouse; Merry Go Round; Genesis - Elvin Jones (Blue Note)
Earth Jones - Elvin Jones (Palo Alto)
On the Corner; Get Up with It; Dark Magus - Miles Davis (CBS/Sony)
My Goals Beyond - Mahavishnu John McLaughlin (Electra)
With own groups:
Lookout Farm; Drum Ode (ECM)
Sweet Hands; Forgotten Fantasy (A&M;/Horizon)
If They Only Knew; Doin' It Again (Timeless)
Pendulum (Artist House)
Quest (Palo Alto)
Quest II; Quest III-Midpoint (Storyville)
Natural Selection (Evidence)
Of One Mind (CMP)
Turn It Around; Miles Away (Owl/EMI)
Songs for My Daughter (Soul Note)
Return of the Tenor (Double Time)
New Vista; Meditations Suite; A Walk in the Clouds-Liebman Plays Puccini (Arkadia)
The Unknown Jobim (GMN)
In A Mellow Tone (Zoho)
Beyond the Line-David Liebman Big Band (Omnitone)
Miscellaneous recordings as a leader/co-leader:
Energy of the Chance (Heads Up)
What It Is (Columbia)
Dedications; The Loneliness of a Long Distance Runner (CMP)
Homage to Coltrane; Timeline; West Side Story Today; Trio + 1; Classique (Owl/EMI)
Classic Ballads; Joy (Candid)
The Trio Plays Cole Porter; Setting the Standard; Besame Mucho (Red Records)
The Tree; The Seasons (Soul Note)
Water: Giver of Life with Pat Metheny (Arkadia)
Monk's Mood (Double Time)
Time Immemorial (ENJA-Koch)
Colors, The Distant Runner - Solo Recordings; Bookends with Marc Copland (Hatology)
Gathering of Sprits: Saxophone Summit with Mike Brecker and Joe Lovano (Telarc)
Manhattan Dialogues with Phil Markowitz; Vienna Dialogues with Bobby Avey (ZoHo)
Flashpoint with Aydin Esen, Anthony Jackson, Steve Smith (Tone Center)
Three for All with Steve Swallow and Adam Nussbaum (Challenge)
Back on the Corner with The DL Group + Mike Stern, Anthony Jackson (Tone Center)
David Liebman Teaches and Plays - 2 DVD set
On Education, the Saxophone and Related Topics - Booklet
Standards and Originals Play Along with the David Liebman Group
Ten Chromatic Compositions (w/CD)
In Conversation with Lieb (2 CDs)
Eight Compositions of the 1970s-Play-Along Vol.19
Scale Syllabus - Vol. 26
How to Approach Standards Chromatically - Techniques of Superimposition (w/CD)
A Chromatic Approach to Jazz Melody & Harmony (with CD)-Advance Music (translated to French)
Self Portrait of a Jazz Artist
Miscellaneous chamber music for Saxophone Quartet; Woodwind Quartet and soloist, String Quartet and soloist, Cello and soloist, Viola and soloist, Saxophone Duo, Solo Saxophone
David Liebman Anthology (original compositions)
Caris Music Services
Understanding Jazz Rhythm: The Concept of Swing ( DVD)-Caris Music Services
The Improviser's Guide to Transcription ( DVD)-Caris Music Services
The Complete Guide to Saxophone Sound Production ( DVD)-Caris Music Services.
Jazz Connections: Miles Davis and David Liebman-Edward Mellen Press
The Loneliness of a Long Distance Runner-for sax quartet -arranged by Caris Visentin-Caris Music Services
Developing a Personal Saxophone Sound-Dorn Publications(translated to German, Japanese, Czech)
Lookout Farm: Improvisation for Small Group-Almo Publications