Hugh’s Room is a great venue for a jazz act. The sight lines are good, the sound is good, the food and drink, good and reasonably priced to boot. The wait staff are attentive and respectful of the music. The audience for this performance was very attentive.
The first set opened with, David Liebman’s "Day and Night" a contrafact on Cole Porter’s "Night and Day". A melodic sounding Mike Murley introduces the song in a pleasing lyrical manner. Liebman playing soprano saxophone, joins in harmony for the first few chorus’s. He would step outside the box for the balance of the song with strong playing. He steps up to the microphone with a determined look. The soprano begins a fluttering of tones at a rapid pace. Liebman’s body language is one of extremes. Rocking his shoulders up and down, as if pulling these rapid fire runs from the horn. So powerful are some of these movements, he knocks himself off balance as he rips the tones from the horn. From moderately atonal to a balanced mix of melody both modal and atonal, sounds that are interesting, involved and stir the imagination.
The drummer, Ian Froman is free wheeling, fast and powerful, reminiscent of Elvin Jones. The saxophone playing of Murley is somewhat reminiscent of early Coltrane, while Liebman’s playing is of a free Coltrane. The bass playing of Pat Collins is solid, he holds it all together with tasteful rhythms, smooth lines and great time.
The band would flow through many extended tunes, Murley’s "That’s What You Want" a song that opens with a slow saxophone line. The two saxophones, Murley on soprano and Liebman on tenor, play in harmony. The song builds and Liebman goes outside the box once again to produce some intensely wicked playing.
Ian Froman introduced the next song "All For Bird" a nice drum interlude brings in the saxophones in a bebop fashion. The bassist Pat Collins lays down a moderately paced walking bass line. Liebman wails on soprano while Murley sings with purity through the tenor.
The band played two sets; the first set was engaging the second set was on fire. The audience was excited and the energy level was high. The band fed off of the audience, they also appeared to get motivated by Liebman’s intensity. The joy on the faces of the band members told the story. There were many incredulous looks by band members upon witnessing a Liebman statement of genius.
The set opened with "Old Man Blues" progressed through a couple more tunes including a Murley original "Happy Halloween" and concluded with Coltrane’s "India". From a beautiful introduction by Dave Liebman on Indian flute to an incredible free ride to India that inspired the musicians on stage to dig deeply and motivated the audience to a standing ovation. Everything that needed to be said had been. The show ended with a thank you from Mr. Liebman.