Stephans, Liebman, Copland, Gress: Quartette Oblique (Sunnyside)
Attempting the impossible, Rifftides once again tries to catch up. We all know that is impossible because record companies refuse to accept that jazz is dead; they keep releasing new music. It took too long for me to mention this superb quartet album, which has been out for a year or so. From Dave Liebman’s falling-away tenor saxophone insinuations that introduce Wayne Shorter’s “Nardis” through the concluding exploration of Miles Davis’s “So What” and “All Blues.” Liebman, drummer Michael Stephans, pianist Marc Copland and bassist Drew Gress meld in intriguing versions not only of the two modern classics by Shorter and Davis but also the Schwartz & Deitz Standard “You And The Night And The Music,” Duke Ellington’s “In A Sentimental Mood,” and bassist Gress’s composition “Vesper.” Copland’s harmonic sensivity and keyboard touch are superb in the Gress piece. Liebman’s capacious tenor sax sound and conception match the relaxation and assurance in Gress’s writing and soloing. Liebman maintains the high standard he has set for himself over the past year or two as he excels not only in his own projects but in a series of guest appearances on other artists’ albums. Quartette Oblique was recorded before a responsive audience at the venerable Deers Head Inn in the Pennsylvania Mountains. It wears well, and is likely to through many hearings.