JAZZBO NOTES ESSENTIAL RECORDING
Double Edge was to be David Liebman and Richie Beirach’s last great duet performance together, meaning that it has their characteristic combination of uncommon lyricism and intense swing. After this, as a duo, they leaned too far into 20th Century classical music harmony for me, at the expense of communication.
If you’re going to do a program of standards, especially if they are as familiar as Lover Man, On Green Dolphin Street, and Round Midnight, you’d better have a unique take on the material. And Dave Liebman and Richie Beirach do. On all of these standards, the duo alters the harmony, sometimes subtly, sometimes fairly outrageously. Mostly, their alterations take the material to a darker, harsher, more edgy place.
India starts with some atmospherics from pianist Richie Beirach, playing the strings inside the piano. When we get the melody, Liebman harps on the augmented 4th. I think maybe they were thinking of Calcutta when they were playing this.
Similarly, Round Midnight has a ghostly air, like the duo are imagining an all but abandoned street with only a few streetwalkers and a mangy cat.
Even when the duo plays pretty, like on the medley of Lover Man and Some Other Time, they still play around with harmony and instrumental effects.
Best of all is the duo’s take on Oleo, that venerable warhorse. If you didn’t know it was Oleo, you wouldn’t be able to tell until the last couple of choruses. The duo starts out the tune at a full gallop, distorting it beyond all recognition, swinging like mad. This is the most violent rendition of this tune I’ve ever heard. It’s brilliant.
But really, Double Edge as a whole is brilliant. I can’t think of a piano/reeds date that’s even close to as good, other that Dave Liebman and Richie Beirach’s earlier dates, Forgotten Fantasies and Omerta.