This new Line Art Records release is a new encounter with the American pianist Carol Liebowitz, a performer with classical training and a passion for improvised music. The duo is one of her favorite formats. Previously, we wrote about the duo of Liebowitz with saxophonist Nick Lyons (First Set, 2016), and with her current partner, clarinet player Bill Payne, Carol participated in the recording of the very first Line Art Records album — the trio Payne / Lindal / Liebowitz (2015), where they played with the Swedish violinist Eva Lindal. Now Carol and Bill, piano and clarinet, are left alone with each other and their own creative imagination.
Actually, they were not alone. There was an audience: the album was recorded during their concert in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the American southwest. And the energy of the hall, as it seems to me, actively fueled the creative imagination of the improvisors: applause after each track does not seem a simple tribute to politeness.
Mathematics and music, of course, are closely related, but they are by no means identical. The duet of Liebowitz and Payne is a case where the sum of two components is not equivalent to their simple addition, it proved to be more. In the duet the interplay of the musicians has acquired a new quality. Bill’s clarinet sounds wonderful in “Desert Dance,” but it is the instant reaction of the pianist, the precise response of the piano, that makes the clarinet’s voice especially spirited. And a dramatic piano intro in “Tempest,” played in a purely academic manner, is followed at once by the wind instrument, merging in an inspiring improvisation. “Hidden Canyon” and “Secrets” seemed to me the pinnacles of this duet co-creation. And in two tracks, the title track and “Mixtures of Aroma in the Smoke,” the duo turns into a trio: the instruments of Payne and Liebowitz joined by the poetic words of Mark Weber. Poetry and improvisational jazz live, of course, according to their own laws. But it’s worth listening to how slowly and lyrically Payne’s clarinet echoes Weber’s voice in “Mixtures of Aroma in the Smoke” to agree with the organic nature of this combination.
And as in previous reviews of the work of Liebowitz and Payne, now it is necessary to talk about the high intellectuality of their improvised music, infused not so much by jazz in its classical sense, but rather by academic music, especially the second Viennese school (Payne speaks directly about the impact of Webern's music on him). From jazz Carol and Bill take another, no less important property—the freedom of creative self-expression, born “here and now,” which comes from the music of the late Coltrane, Dolphy or Steve Lacy. The result in the form of the album SPIDERWEBMANDALA may interest people with very different, even polar tastes.
—Leonid Auskern, jazzquad.ru
(Translated from Russian)