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Listening Post: Guitarist Joshua Breakstone and Dave Liebman and his pupil Samuel Blais

Jazz

Samuel Blais and David Liebman, “Cycling” [Effendi] It is has been an article of conviction for true jazz people for decades now that Dave Liebman is one of the greatest soprano saxophonists in jazz. That has been epecially true since the death of Steve Lacy in 2004. With the gorgeous lyricism of Jane Ira Bloom occupying the top of a different wing of soprano saxophonists in jazz, Dave Liebman is, without question, the player now who seems in a direct line to Steve Lacy. On this pianoless disc led by his pupil at the Manhattan School of Music Samuel Blais – often on baritone saxophone – they harken back to one of the earliest and best Lacy discs called “The Straight Horn of Steve Lacy.” That’s what this quartet’s insrumentation duplicates much of the time – a baritone and soprano saxophone front line and a bassist and drummer. In this, the latter are some players from Montreal whom Blais calls two of his favorites – excellent bassist Morgan Moore and drummer Martin Auguste. There is a good deal of counterpoint between teacher and former pupil here and it’s superb. Except for a couple by Liebman (including the title tune) andf a “standard”, the compositions are all Crais’ and the abstraction often allows Liebman to play some of his most daring and experimental lines on disc in a long time. The one “standard” they plays is a superb version of Bobby Scott’s “A Taste of Honey.: Crais plays alto and soprano on the disc too and Liebman, as always, plays tenor too. But it’s the baritone/soprano front line that makes most of the difference here. It’s the disc’s strength which is enormous. The disc has been out for six months but is now receiving more general distribution. ½ (Jeff Simon)

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Joshua Breakstone, “2nd Avenue:The Return of the Cello Quartet” (Capri). Breakstone is a very good jazz guitarist who once before shared his front line on a quartet disc with Mike Richmond on cello. They’re doing it again on his new one. Wes Montgomery and Sam Jones made guitar-cello jazz in another era. So did Jim Hall and Ron Carter. The jazz cello playing of Hank Roberts and Abdul Wadud were featured on some of the most advanced jazz of the ‘70’s and ‘80’s. Unfortunately, Richmond’s cello playing doesn’t seem to be quite on that level which leaves Breakstone to be the featured soloist on a chamber quartet where accomplishement and ambition don’t quite seem to be on the same page. ½ (Jeff Simon)

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