Dave Liebman enters his free-improv phase with new album Live at Smalls

Dave Liebman showcases his daring virtuosity in a new free-jazz recording called Live at Smalls.

The 75-minute set finds the soprano saxophonist in a quintet setting featuring trumpeter Peter Evans, pianist Leo Genovese, bassist John Hébert and drummer Tyshawn Sorey.

Part of the Smalls LIVE Living Masters Series by Cellar Music Group, the set was recorded in January of 2022 at the famed Smalls Night Club in New York’s West Village.

The recording ushers in a new phase for Liebman. Since this album was recorded, the musician has made a continued, concerted effort to play in a free-jazz setting.

“I have been recording since I was 16 years old,” Liebman says. “I have played everything and particularly a lot of the jazz language on over 500 records. I would like to spend this next stage of my artistic life focusing on playing free.”

Look no further than the album’s track listing to find evidence of the group’s freewheeling attitude. Live at Smalls has only three tracks, with the shortest clocking in at just under 15 minutes and the longest running for more than a half hour.

When the gig was booked, Liebman called four musicians he had played with at different times in varied contexts, but never together as an ensemble. That helped motivate him to explore fresh ideas on the bandstand.

“I knew they could do it. Most musicians love playing this way even if there may be difficulty getting started,” he says. “The amazing thing about it is that somehow when good musicians play like this, they know exactly when to stop and go. These guys played this music magnificently.”


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Here’s the track listing:

  1. The Beginning
  2. The Middle
  3. The End

Davie Liebmans’s Live at Smalls is out Feb. 3, 2023, via Cellar Music Group.