CD review: ‘Lineage’

June 29, 2013 

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"Lineage" by Dave Liebman and Michael Stephans.

  • Jazz Dave Liebman and Michael Stephans Lineage

Pair give classic pop, rock hits kick, pizazz

Subtitled “Rock and Pop Classics Revisited,” “Lineage” is no sentimental journey. You’ve never heard “Mr. Sandman,” “Tequila,” “Love Me Tender,” “Wipe Out” and psychedelic hits such as the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” and Stevie Wonder’s “Visions” like this before. It’s the late 1950s and early ’60s, the era of soprano and tenor saxophonist Dave Liebman’s and drummer Michael Stephans’ youths, deconstructed and re-imagined.

Assisted by guitarist Vic Juris, keyboard player Bobby Avey, bassist Evan Gregor and multi-woodwind instrumentalist Matt Vashlishan, Liebman and Stephans make this a funhouse experience. But there are also moments of reflection and beauty, such as Liebman’s gauzy tenor tone and languid phrasing on “I Only Have Eyes for You” and Juris’ gypsy-like acoustic guitar work on “Visions.” Liebman also contributes one of his lovelier soprano solos on “Visions.” For an example of his more frequent whiplashing, bucking-horse-like soprano work, there is “Mr. Sandman.” And on “Walk, Don’t Run” Liebman and Vashlishan entwine soprano lines like writhing snakes. This cut is also notable for their perfect intonation when playing unison lines, not an easy feat with the inherently intonation-challenged soprano sax.

Stephans has a drummer’s field day throughout “Wipe Out,” a cacophonous everyone-ad-lib-at-once performance. On the Beatles’ “Here, There and Everywhere,” Avey’s organ accompaniment offers church-like support. The album ends with “Love Me Tender,” with Liebman’s sub-toned tenor in a meditative mood.

Correspondent Owen Cordle

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