the jazz masters (liebman/abercrombie/swallow/baron) at birdland - NYC, aug 26

  • photography by Clara Pereira / text by Filipe Freitas

Birdland, the famous New York jazz club located in the crowded Times Square, had its ample room full of devotees whose eyes were focused on a new quartet of veteran musicians that proclaimed themselves The Jazz Masters
If we take a look at its members – Dave Liebman on tenor and soprano saxophones, John Abercrombie on guitar, Steve Swallow on electric bass, and Joey Baron on drums – we immediately conclude that the name couldn’t be more appropriate since they’ve been marking the history of jazz with their indelible paths and extensive discographies of exceptional quality.

For these sessions they played some of the most remarkable compositions of Thelonious Monk, starting with “Bye-Ya”, which pulsed with its swinging, Latin-feel energy. Abercrombie, a guitarist who was never an adept of fireworks in his playing, delivered the first solo, almost in a timid way. Liebman did the opposite, putting a lot of humor in a booming improvisation that preceded a dazzling solo by Joey Baron.
The ballad “Ruby, My Dear”, whose sophistication is overpowering, could be identified after Liebman’s ad lib intro, opening the door for the punchy tones of “Bemsha Swing”. Abercrombie and Swallow conducted harmonically, using a volatile approach, while Baron’s drums unleashed thunderous roars that were never inflated. In turn, Liebman, this time on soprano, demonstrated why he’s considered an adventurous musician.  

Opting for diversifying the Monk’s mood, the quartet did the well-known standard “Tea for Two”, in which Swallow handled with his habitual melodic discernment.
Before the incredible ballad “Ugly Beauty”, introduced here with a sort of mystical aura that kept floating in the air, we had “Misterioso”, a blues whose Spanish title is not misleading. 
Abercrombie finally opened the book on the last tune of the night, “Rhythm a Ning”, which showed us a fast-paced Swallow, swinging stronger than ever, hand in hand with Baron, who silenced the audience with a monumental solo. The confidence of Liebman was noticeable once again, finishing in style with a few sturdy high-pitched whistles.

What a special treat to be able to see and hear these four ‘masters’ playing live and interacting one another with passion and cheerfulness.