By Kira Grunenberg | Published January 2022
Saxophonist Dave Liebman exudes an air of humility throughout this John Coltrane tribute album. Despite being a Grammy-nominated artist and NEA Jazz Master, Liebman put his Expansions bandmates and Coltrane’s music at the forefront of the creative appeal with “selflessness” setting the tone for this session. Other choices — like Liebman’s decision not to play a note of tenor on the date, placing an Alex Ritz’s 6/4-and-4/4 chart of “Mr. Day” at the top of the program, and playing wooden flute on Coltrane’s iconic “Olé” as a way to acknowledge the piece’s Spanish folk roots — reinforce this altruistic mindset.
All of this sharing is what gives the album a spontaneous, fresh character. Even devoted Coltrane listeners will hear intriguing stylistic pivots. The band wastes no time presenting time changes when “My Favorite Things” shifts from 3/4 to 4/4. The spicy melodic flow in Matt Vashlishan’s arrangement of “Lazy Bird” hits notes and makes chord changes that entirely dismiss the thought of unengaged performance. Meanwhile, “Dear Lord,” the finale, pursues equal ingenuity, but ends in “selflessness” on a united note; the music blends under an umbrella of rounded, gentler and more fluid timbres in flute, brush strokes, soft keys and Liebman’s distinct-but-delicate soprano tones. Come for Coltrane’s concepts. Stay for the adventurous reinventions.
Selflessness: The Music Of John Coltrane: Mr. Day; Compassion; My Favorite Things; Olé; Lazy Bird; Peace On Earth; One Up One Down; Selflessness; Dear Lord. (54:51)
Personnel: Dave Liebman, soprano saxophone, wooden flute (4); Matt Vashlishan, alto saxophone, flute (6, 9), clarinet (4), wind synth (2); Bobby Avey, piano, keyboard, synthesizers (2, 4, 8, 9); Tony Marino, acoustic bass; Alex Ritz, drums, frame drum (4).
Ordering Info: dottimerecords.com