"Each situation brings it's own specific requirements.
I listen, feel and respond and try to supply what the music demands"
- Adam Nussbaum
The LEADBELLY Project
Sunnyside Records rec. 2017
Release Date 23 February 2018
Adam Nussbaum / drums
Steve Cardenas / guitar
Nate Radley / guitar
Ohad Talmor / saxophone
1 - Old Riley
2 - Green Corn
3 - Black Girl (Where Did You Sleep Last Night)
4 - Bottle Up and Go
5 - Black Betty
6 - Grey Goose
7 - Bring Me a Little Water, Sylvie
8 - You Can't Loose Me Cholly
9 - Insight, Enlight
10 - Sure Would Baby
11 - Goodnight Irene
The LEADBELLY Project
recorded @ Lunatico Brooklyn
THE LEADBELLY PROJECT
From Adam Nussbaum's The LeadBelly Project
(Feb. 23, 2018) on Sunnyside Records
From jazz and soul to rock and country, the blues are the bedrock and a uniting feature for much of the popular music originating in the United Sates. The simple and repetitive structures are easy to grasp and perform, making the blues extremely approachable. Under the command of brilliant writers like the legendary Leadbelly, the blues maintains a unique place between high art and common expression.
The discovery of the music of Leadbelly was transformative for young Adam Nussbaum. The only child of artistic parents in Norwalk, Connecticut, Nussbaum was exposed to many recordings, from classical to folk to jazz and blues. It was the image of Huddie Ledbetter on the original Folkways 10-inch record covers that fascinated the five year old. The celebrated blues and folk musician’s music seared itself into his ears, as it does in young listeners, informing the future drummer’s musical approach for years to come, most explicitly on his new recording, The Leadbelly Project.
Nussbaum studied classical piano for five years, but it wasn’t until he was twelve that he focused on drums. He played in local bands before moving to New York to study at the Davis Center at City College. Most of Nussbaum’s education was earned by sitting in with other musicians and it wasn’t long before he caught the attention of the City’s most notable players, including Dave Liebman and John Scofield. His professional career began as he left school to go on tour with Scofield. He has remained a first call drummer over the past 30 years, playing alongside legends like John Abercrombie, Gil Evans, James Moody, Stan Getz, and many others.
Nussbaum has had a long association with bassist Steve Swallow, through whom he met saxophonist/composer/arranger Ohad Talmor, who then became a great friend and collaborator. It was Talmor who suggested that Nussbaum begin a new project. It was for this that the drummer decided to revisit some of the music that inspired him early on, specifically the music of Leadbelly. Nussbaum found that the simplicity and clarity of Leadbelly’s songs provided many possibilities in interpretation. It was only a matter of finding the right voices to fill out an ensemble.
For his quartet in addition to Talmor, Nussbuam decided to eschew the bass and employ two electric guitarists (two six stringers for Leadbelly’s single 12-string guitar) whose only requirements would be to be open-minded, stay out of each other’s way and be supportive of the music. Steve Cardenas was an obvious choice as Nussbaum had been a fan of his playing and felt that he would be receptive and sensitive to this melding of jazz, blues, and folk. Nate Radley was a perfect foil for Cardenas and a sensitive listener who could bring much to the music.
|Adam Nussbaum: The Lead Belly Project
By Dan McClenaghan
December 19, 2017
The blues is simple music. What do they call it? Three chords and the truth? They say the same about country music and rock, but that's another article. But for much of American music, blues is the bedrock, be it rock, soul, funk, a good slice of country western, and, yes, jazz.
Drummer Adam Nussbaum zeros in on the blues with the Lead Belly Project, exploring the seminal delta blues of Huddie Ledbetter (1888-1949), aka, Lead Belly.
An inspirational artist, Lead Belly has found its way into jazz explorations often. Saxophonist Clifford Jordan went there in a big way with These Are Our Roots: The Music of Lead Belly (Atlantic Records, 1965); and saxophonist Geof Bradfield—inspired by Lead Belly via Jordan, presented in 2015 the excellent Our Roots (Origin Records).
Lead Belly was one of the smoother, more polished of the delta blues artists (it is, of course, relative), his sound less raw than those of Robert Johnson, Charlie Patton or Son House. Interestingly, Nussbaum and his cohorts lean toward the raw side with their takes on Some of LeadBelly's best known tunes. It's two guitars, Steve Cardenas and Nate Radley, joined by saxophonist Ohad Talmor and drummer/leader Nussbaum, immersed in the glorious simplicity of the music. Talmor's sax has restrained, rough-around-the-edges sound at times, and a big, holy, resonant tone at others. The guitar-manship is refined, luminous—a country twang sneaks in on "Bring Me A Little Water, Sylvie." They have a rockabilly feel on "Black Girl (Where Did You Sleep Last Night)."
As rough hewn as this quartet's renderings are this music, there is also a deft exquisiteness to it. A loose, spontaneous, soundtrack to America feeling, with top level musicianship involved in the serving up elemental sounds.
Track Listing: Old Riley; Green Corn; Black Girl (Where Did You Sleep Last Night); Bottle Up And Go; Black Betty; Grey Goose; Bring Me A Little Water, Sylvie; You Can't Lose Me Cholly; Insight, Enlight; Sure Would Baby; Good Night Irene.
Personnel: Adam Nussbaum: drums; Steve Cardenas: electric guitar; Nate Radley: electric guitar; Ohad Talmor: saxophone.
Title: The Lead Belly Project | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records
Let's Get Deluxe
Basho Music - July 2016
1 Let's Get Deluxe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6:05
2 It Could Have Been a Simple Goodbye . . 7:31
3 A Fedora for Dora . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8:21
4 Miniature . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2:26
5 Terrace Legend . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8:38
6 Dog Time . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6:10
7 Hold out for the Sun . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6:40
8 Intro to Propane Jane . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0:40
9 Propane Jane . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6:06
10 Speak to Me of Home . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7:07
The Impossible Gentlemen
Let's Get Deluxe (Basho Music)
Exuberance, humour and adventure - Review by Martin Critchley
This album has excelled my expectations. From previous albums I was expecting bright improvisations, a sense of humour and coming through everything, the sheer exuberance and enjoyment of these gentlemen playing together. I got all that and much more.
The emotional power of tracks such as 'Wallenda's Last Stand' ('The Impossible Gentlemen') and 'Just to see You' ('Internationally Recognised Aliens') has been augmented by additional instruments. This is not to say that '. . . Simple Goodbye' is crowded - far from it.
There is a deft touch to the orchestrations that gives a new dimension to the group dynamic. And this band can rock! 'Play the Game' developed into 'Barber Blues' and now 'Propane Jane' will blow you away!
The whole album repays repeated listening for the use of dynamics and the tones and textures of the new instruments. There might even be the judicious use of an effects pedal on the bass at one point . . .
If you like your jazz adventurous, with a sense of humour and truly moving improvisations, then this is the group for you. Don't get just this album - get all three.
AGNZ - Chance Meeting
Whaling City Sound rec. 2016
Azzolina Govoni Nussbaum Zinno
Chance Meeting (Whaling City Sound)
Jay Azzolina - guitar
Dino Govoni - saxophone
Adam Nussbaum - drums
Dave Zinno - bass
Flying in Circles
* Released 2015
1 Adam's Ale . . . . . . . 7:45
2 7 in 7 . . . . . . . . . . . . 7:47
3 Breeze . . . . . . . . . . . 6:46
4 Flying in Circles . . 11:11
5 Nocturne . . . . . . . . . 9:04
6 Ivan's Song . . . . . . . 8:09
7 Woodzling . . . . . . . . 6:30
All tracks feature Adam Nussbaum
Christian Elsässer & NDR Big Band
Flying in Circles (NDR)
All music composed and arranged by Christian Elsässer
(text translated) Composing music is a very personal matter, but also technical and logical. Finding a balance between the two, the composer creates music that enchants. Munchner pianist and composer Christian Elsässer managed together with the NDR Big Band on the CD "Flying in Circles". Everything clearly works: catchy melodies, powerful sounds. Music composed very precisely. Despite concentrated density, the music also has width. With air under his musical wings, the music is carried off through his compositions. Easy, free, wild and unbridled. He succeeds dense and airy at the same time - to compose with the head and from the gut.
Christian Elsässer, born in 1983 in Munich, is an ECHO Prize winner, Germany's demand as a pianist and worked in various areas as arranger and conductor: In cooperation with all German radio big bands and in projects with the Munich Philharmonic, the Munich funk orchestra and singer-songwriter Willy Astor he looks beyond the boundaries of jazz. On the CD "Flying in Circles" the NDR Big Band developed under the direction of Jörg Achim Keller with her outstanding soloists, the American guest star Adam Nussbaum on drums and the composer of the pieces Christian Elsässer at the piano, an irresistible attraction. Adam Nussbaum, an ideal candidate for this co-operation, drives the compositions ahead with transparent energy. The human voice as an instrument set, dazzling percussion colors, flutes, clarinet, trumpets and trombones, all enriches the big band sound. Music with density and size, music played with technical perfection and lifeblood. Christian Elsässer has composed music that enchants for his CD "Flying in Circles".
Ulrich Habersetzer, Bayerischer Rundfunk
New York, March, 2014
Vic Juris, guitar
Jay Anderson, bass
Adam Nussbaum, drums
1 Lonely Woman
2 What's Goin' On
3 Ugly Beauty
4 Tereza My Love
5 The Wrong Blues
6 All the Things You Are
7 Slow Hot Wind
9 I Wish I Knew
10 Remembering the Rain
Auand Records, 2014
* Released August 2, 2014
1 It Did . . . . . . . 4:25
2 Ups and Downs . . . . . . . 5:59
3 Carolina Moon . . . . . . . 5:12
4 Get Lost . . . . . . . 4:38
5 Then Again . . . . . . . 2:52
6 Meli Melo . . . . . . . 6:25
7 Now Four 2 . . . . . . . 2:43
8 7 Things . . . . . . . 6:01
9 Parallel Fifths . . . . . . . 2:05
10 Flight to Missoula . . . . . . . 4:19
11 Anything You Want . . . . . . . 3:18
12 Warp . . . . . . . 1:24
13 You Go to My Head . . . . . . . 7:04
SWALLOW / TALMOR / NUSSBAUM
Singular Curves (Auand)
The conventions of the tenor saxophone trio — consisting of sax, bass and drums — have held remarkably steady since Sonny Rollins brought them into popular usage in the late 1950s. Within those parameters, even a tweak can feel like a push against established precedent.
For the tenor trio Swallow/Talmor/Nussbaum, the difference has everything to do with a single member: Steve Swallow, whose style on five-string electric bass, a matter of stretch and sinew, has been refined over more than 40 years. The dark, wormy dimensions of his sound give the trio its defining trait on some of this album’s tracks, like his own “Get Lost,” a catchy tune with a rhythmic trapdoor, and “Ups and Downs,” by his longtime partner, the pianist Carla Bley. (They have played it together for a while in a drummerless trio with the saxophonist Andy Sheppard.)
But it’s the easy chemistry among Mr. Swallow and his band mates, the tenor saxophonist Ohad Talmor and the drummer Adam Nussbaum, that gives “Singular Curves” its claim to singularity. The trio has released one previous album: “Playing in Traffic,” its appealingly loose debut, on the Italian label Auand. This follow-up sharpens the band’s focus, with a program of mostly original music in a swinging postbop mode.
Mr. Talmor, whose dry but expressive sound on tenor can evoke Joe Lovano, has a knack for writing sturdy but pliable compositions: “Meli Melo” is a tone poem in a gracefully halting cadence, while “7 Things” spins neat arabesques over the chord sequence for the standard “All the Things You Are.” “Flight to Missoula” briefly enlists the members of the trio as three strands in a braided counterpoint.
Mr. Nussbaum has his own proven rapport with Mr. Swallow, present at every turn on the album and highlighted on a spontaneous invention titled “Now Four 2.” But there’s no dominant hierarchy in the band, which will play a pair of album-release shows on Wednesday at the Jazz Standard. Trios usually call up triangular metaphors, so the suggestion of curvature in this album’s title feels like a subtle subversion.
New York Times August 11, 2014 by Nate Chinen
THE IMPOSSIBLE GENTLEMAN
Gwilym Simcock Mike Walker Steve Swallow
Steve Rodby Adam Nussbaum
Internationally Recognised Aliens
SRCD432 * Released Sept. 2, 2013
AVAILABLE NOW - SRCD432
1 Heute Loiter . . . . . . . 7:44
2 Just To See You . . . . . . . 7:35
3 Modern Day Heroes . . . . . . . 6:33
4 The Silver Of Other Lovers . . . . . . . 6:21
5 Crank Of Cam Bay . . . . . . . 9:11
6 Love In Unlikely Places . . . . . . . 4:46
7 Barber Blues . . . . . . . 5:31
8 Ever After . . . . . . . 9:15
9/09/2013 Peter Bevan, Northern Echo
"Punchier and often more exciting than their debut..."
12/09/2013 Tom Henry, Toledo Blade
13/09/2013 Irish Times 4 stars * * * *
"This league of extraordinary gentlemen is a more balanced act, a conversation of equals that has deepened over time despite the varying ages of its members." Read Full Article
As their name suggests, The Impossible Gentlemen are no ordinary band. Crossing generational and geographical boundaries, this jazz supergroup is a special, unique experience both for the musicians and for audiences. As the band convenes relatively infrequently, every gig and every recording is a magical event that captures something once seemingly 'impossible'.
'Internationally Recognised Aliens', the band's second album, finds them branching out yet further, taking new risks and making music that is adventurous, accessible and tinged with sometimes surreal humour. In addition to the established quartet of Gwilym Simcock, Mike Walker, Steve Swallow and Adam Nussbaum, 13 Grammy award-winner Steve Rodby now takes on a greater role, serving as producer and playing bass on two tracks. Steve Rodby has been part of the band for over a year, touring with the group. He brings a wealth of ideas and experience from his long career working with Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays.
Three tracks (Modern Day Heroes, Heute Loiter and Love In Unexpected Places) are co-writes between Simcock and Walker. Both of these excellent musicians are used to more auteurist compositional scenarios, so this collaborative process took the musicians away from their comfort zones and kept the music sounding fresh and exciting. Sometimes this was a matter of Walker adding key detail to a virtually completed Gwilym Simcock tune (Modern Day Heroes), at others (Love in Unexpected Places), the pieces emerged naturally from rehearsals. Walker's interest in blurring the lines between jazz, rock, pop and classical music is an ever-present feature, creating a new whole from these tried and tested forms.
Humour is also a hugely important aspect of this album's idiosyncratic character. Heute Loiter begins with Mike Walker grappling for the right sound on his guitar, whilst Crank of Cam Bay was inspired by one of Steve Swallow's stories about a man whose hideaway vacation home is interrupted with the sounds of marauding hoards of tourist families and whom he heckles with a megaphone. It features the voice of Swallow himself.
Whereas much of the music contained on the band's debut had been written before the group had even been formed, all the music for 'Internationally Recognised Aliens' was penned with this particular ensemble in mind. Just To See You even presented a rare opportunity to implement the procedure known as 'Steve Squared', with Steve Swallow playing the melody and Steve Rodby underpinning the groove.
This is honest, joyful music that tells a strong story and takes the listener on a journey. The music is also unpredictable and exciting, offering different spaces for improvisation rather than the usual theme and improvising sequence. A key aspiration for the band is longevity, and they seem poised to succeed - this is music that stands to be listened to repeatedly, yielding new surprises and greater detail with every play.
FMRCD346 - FMR Records, 2013
* Released April 12, 2013
Jiannis Pavlidis - guitar
Adam Nussbaum - drums
George Kontrafouris - organ
Available now on FMR Records
1 Counter Fury . . . . . . . 6:43
2 Migration . . . . . . . 4:16
3 Brother Charles . . . . . . . 5:13
4 Track Info . . . . . . . 9:01
5 Sco Away . . . . . . . 8:20
6 Lisbon . . . . . . . 6:18
7 Darm That Dream . . . . . . . 6:10
PAVLIDIS NUSSBAUM KONTRAFOURIS
This truly fantastic International trio has been touring since 2007 and have finally released their first CD which certainly doesn't disappoint - with great tunes, great grooves and stunning solos from all.
Featuring Swedish born Greek Jiannis Pavlidlis on guitar, Greek compatriot Giorgos Kontrafouris on organ and the virtuoso legandary American jazz/fusion drummer Adam Nussbaum.
They are well established musicians with extensive profiles and each member enjoys a distinguished and varied musical life with an impressive list of personal achievements.
The musical approach the trio follows is open with a strong reference on groove. The material is mostly original as well as reworked standards with a new twist, and refreshingly quirky arrangements.
During the last tour (March 2011) the trio decided to record their first album, a decision made due to the natural chemistry between the three musicians.
1 Remember (Steve Swallow) 6:04
2 Amazing (Steve Swallow) 7:38
3 In f (Steve Swallow) 4:26
4 Free Ballad #1 (Liebman-Nussbaum-Swallow) 2:52
5 My Maia (Adam Nussbaum) 8:52
6 Get Out Of Town (Cole Porter) 6:34
7 Bend Over Backwards (Steve Swallow) 7:28
8 Swallowish (Dave Liebman) 6:14
9 Free Beguine #1 (Liebman-Nussbaum-Swallow) 3:01
10 Sure Would Baby (Adam Nussbaum) 5:10
11 Latin Like (Dave Liebman) 5:12
* Recorded at Jay Andersons' Studio,
New York, June 21, 2010
We3 Amazing 10045 - Kind of Blue Records, 2011
Dave Liebman soprano & tenor sax, flutes
Adam Nussbaum drums
Steve Swallow bass
Available now in record stores and on iTUNES
Liebman, Nussbaum and Swallow have played together, on and off for over 30 years. They decided to celebrate this by writing 10 originals for this project - the other cut is a Dave Liebman arrangement of Cole Porter’s “Get Out Of Town” - where they explored the boundaries of modern jazz composition. Writing for a chordless trio was challenging in its own right but as Dave Liebman puts it: “When you play with musicians of this calibre, there is little difference from playing set pieces to playing free improvisations.
Vic Juris: guitar
Jay Anderson: bass
Adam Nussbaum: drums
Vic Juris Omega Is The Alpha
Record Label: Steeplechase
1 Folksong (Vic Juris) 6:30
2 Hallucinations (Bud Powell) 5:00
3 For Shirley (Vic Juris) 7:19
4 Omega Is The Alpha (Albert Ayler) 5:33
5 Subway (Vic Juris) 6:08
6 Romulan Ale (Vic Juris) 8:27
7 Lonely Woman (Ornette Coleman) 6:04
8 Sweet Sixteen (Vic Juris) 7:18
9 Rosario (Vic Juris) 6:49
10 Alone Together (Arthur Schwartz) 6:47
Vic Juris: Omega Is The Alpha
BANN: As You Like
by Terrell Holmes
Bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Adam Nussbaum have played on many fine recordings as sidemen and leaders and rank among the best on their instruments. Their work on a pair of new albums validates their talent and versatility further.
Anderson and Nussbaum join guitar maestro Vic Juris on his album Omega Is The Alpha, a set of originals and standards. Juris’ lovely acoustic Latin-themed tunes “Subway” and the sensual tango “Rosario” flamenco sketches move at a relaxed, leisurely pace. Nussbaum strikes just the right chord with sticks on edge of snare and brushes on cymbals while Anderson plucks with a soft luminosity. They deftly navigate the melodic minefield Juris lays down on “Romulan Ale” and swing effortlessly on “Sweet Sixteen”. Juris uses distortion and humpback whale effects to underscore the theme of Bud Powell’s “Hallucinations”. Nussbaum thrashes, Anderson pulsates and Juris adds more synth on the Albert Ayler-composed title cut, which has an Irish folk song edge to it. Nussbaum’s lush cymbals and Anderson’s deep tissue plucking enhance an excellent version of Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman”, which Juris imbues with a Middle Eastern feeling that gives it a fresh dynamic.
Seamus Blake: tenor saxophone
Oz Noy: guitar
Jay Anderson: double bass
Adam Nussbaum: drums
- by Peter Bacon The Jazz Beakfast
- by Bruce Lindsay allaboutjazz.com
- by S. Victor Aaron allaboutjazz.com
BANN As You Like
Record Label: Jazzeyes
1 All The Things You Are (Jerome Kern) 6:35
2 Played Twice (Thelonious Monk) 6:53
3 Guinnevere (David Crosby) 8:20
4 Will Call (Jay Anderson) 3:54
5 Days Of Old (Adam & Maia Nussbaum) 4:50
6 As You Like (BANN) 6:27
7 At Sundown (Jay Anderson) 5:52
8 Minor Shuffle (Oz Noy) 7:15
9 Isotope (Joe Henderson) 8:03
- by Steve Elman Fuse Jazz Review
- by Stuart Derdeyn Quick Spins
- by Richard B. Kamins Step Tempest
Anderson and Nussbaum are also members of the group BANN, along with guitarist Oz Noy and sax man Seamus Blake. Their album As You Like, though having different energy, relies on the same balance of originals and standards as Omega Is The Alpha. It begins with an uptempo, postmodern reading of “All the Things You Are”, where Noy plays a blues-heavy, distorted electric guitar with organ effects. The band’s various tempo switches give Monk’s “Played Twice” a humorous touch, along with Anderson’s bold pizzicato, Noy’s guitar grunts and organ highlights and Blake’s soaring sax. Anderson’s down-in-the-soul plucking and Nussbaum’s shimmering cymbal flourishes form a grand intro to the lush “Guinnevere”, where Blake’s tenor at times has the texture of an oboe. Noy’s angry guitar, Anderson’s funky pizzicato, Blake’s blistering tenor and Nussbaum’s polyrhythms all drive Joe Henderson’s “Isotope”. Anderson and Nussbaum are also excellent composers. Anderson’s energetic “Will Call” has a raindrop-dodging melody and dynamite interplay between Noy and Blake. “At Sundown” is a rich Delta blues whose end-of-the-day languor is highlighted by Noy’s steel guitar mimicry. Nussbaum, with an assist from his daughter, Maia, contributes the soothing ballad “Days of Old”.
Both albums are solid works that provide more proof of the impressive talents of Anderson and Nussbaum.
(Another) Nuttree Quartet
Kind of Blue Records, 2009
Available now in record stores and on iTUNES
Something Sentimental Note by Adam Nussbaum
This special project came about in 2007. In May, we all played together for a party to honor my mother Muriel, who had passed away in April at the age of 83. My Mom had always said that she wanted a celebration, not a funeral. Family and friends gathered together to reminisce and we played songs that my Mom had enjoyed throughout her life.
It was an emotional time; and it was so nice to make music with these wonderful musicians, as we have been treasured friends for over 30 years. Because it felt so good, we decided we should record.
This is dedicated to the memory of our dear parents -- John & Elizabeth Abercrombie, Kenneth Anderson, Leo & Frances Liebman, Erv & Muriel Nussbaum, and those incredible people who have touched our lives. The list is long... they live on in our hearts. I not going to talk about the music. It simply is what it is. I hope you enjoy "Something Sentimental".
The Nuttree Quartet
Kind of Blue Records, 2008
WE3: Three For All
Challenge Records, 2006
- by John Kelman allaboutjazz.com
- by Robert R. Calder allaboutjazz.com
- by Michael Bailey Challenge Records International
www.adamnussbaum.com NussbaumWeb (C) 2013 mogs
We3: Amazing -- a review
By John Kelman
There's something slightly different hearing Steve Swallow's electric bass as it fills the air of this oft times quiet and gentle album of trio jazz. It's conventional jazz but with an attitude of nothing to prove, nowhere to go necessarily, something three friends I (who've made music together for over three decades) might play just because they like to play, and play with each other.
Except for Cole Porter's "Get Out Of Town," it's all original material, everyone getting into the act and everyone getting room to blow. And blow, especially, is what Dave Liebman does here. Amazing being a great showcase for his versatility on not only his acclaimed soprano and tenor saxes but his playing in a C and wooden Indian flutes. Swallow's gentle, wooly electric bass seeps into everything here, while Adam Nussbaum's drumming is impeccably recorded and played, his approaches delicate and popping, not to mention highly syncopated with skins and cymbals alike glistening.
The jazz feel kicks in with Swallow's waltz "remember," followed by his ballad title track; Liebman sticks to soprano on both, his swinging followed by another example of his ease with Swallow's pretty melody. Another Swallow original, the perky swinger "In F," features Nussbaum's great technique with brushes. "In F," based on the chords of Cole Porter's "I Love You," is one of those free-floaters that swings with no anchor, Liebman's beefy tenor swimming in and around Swallow's high-flying bass lines. "Free Ballad #1" sounds free in a more subtle sense-what melody line there is sounds a bit structured amidst the open form. It's slightly eerie.
Nussbaum's "My Maia" (the longest cut here) is a basic medium-tempo swing waltz (alternating between 6 and 5) that lets We3 just hang out. Liebman's fire is on display, alongside some more soloing from Nussbaum, this tune showcasing his stick work. It's on a tune like "My Maia" that you can get a sense for how these three musicians feel about playing with each other: the simple melody and basic progression keeps things pretty open for three different musical personalities to inhabit. No surprises, but also no pretentious virtuosity to distract you from your basic jazz jazz conversation. "Get Out Of Town"-featuring Liebman on flute, some chatty bass from Swallow and a sultry, slow tempo-is played true to form.
The rest of the album follows a similar trajectory. Their "chordless trio" approach, while not groundbreaking, is one that's always welcome. Especially between friends.
We Three -- a review
All About Jazz 2006
By John Kelman
Just because artists have played with each other in other contexts doesn’t necessarily mean they will be successful when they come together as a unit for the first time. Saxophonist Dave Liebman has worked with electric bassist Steve Swallow before—most notably on Swallow’s first release as a leader, Home (ECM, 1980)—and drummer Adam Nussbaum in an early group also featuring a young John Scofield. Nussbaum has been Swallow’s drummer of choice for many years, most notably on his marvellous trio record, Damaged in Transit (XtraWATT/ECM, 2004).
But all three have never worked together before. While there’s enough individual chemistry to suggest that putting them in a room together would be a slam dunk, that's not guaranteed to be the case. Fortunately, these three don’t just work well together, they sound as if they’ve been doing it for years, making their new group We Three and its debut album Three for All as easygoing and effortless an affair as one could ask for.
Considering the strong personalities involved, what’s most refreshing about Three for All is how purely collaborative it is, reflecting each player's personality. Swallow has always possessed a dry sense of humour, and his three contributions manage to be challenging while keeping tongue planted firmly in cheek. Even his gentle ballad “The Start of Something Small” feels just the slightest bit idiosyncratic. Liebman’s cascading notes suggest greater power, but never lose sight of the delicate underpinning from Nussbaum’s brushwork. Jaco Pastorius may be most cited as the player who redefined the potential of the electric bass, but Swallow’s approach—exploiting the full range of the instrument and combining harmonically suggestive lines with more direct chord voicings—is uniquely innovative just the same, though it may not have the same panache.
Considering Liebman’s propensity for post-Coltrane expressionism, his two contributions—the metrically challenged but subdued “Cycling” and the gradually building “The Jewish Warrior”—are surprisingly understated, despite their unassailable swing. Still, his soprano solo on “The Jewish Warrior” burns as brightly as anything on the disc, and Nussbaum is right there with him, starting on brushes, but eventually switching to sticks and ultimately greater force.
Still, despite the occasional burst of heat, Three for All is so relaxed that one can forget just how potent a combination this is. Despite the drummer's energetic and telepathically locked-in support from Swallow, as well as Liebman’s leaning-to-the- extreme tenor work, Nussbaum's “BTU”—a carryover from his work in guitarist John Abercrombie’s organ trio—retains a litheness that doesn’t use that energy as a crutch, but rather a tool for organic evolution.
A pensive reading of “I Only Have Eyes for You,” a look at Miles Davis’ “All Blues” that proves you can swing in 5/4, and a wry take on Thelonious Monk’s “Played Twice” support the trio’s unhurried approach with its own material. Three for All is an album that's so inherently cohesive, it almost passes by unnoticed. But its staying power rests in the greater depth it reveals with each successive listen.
Track listing: What Time Is It; Played Twice; We 3; Up and Adam; The Jewish Warrior; Whistling Past the Graveyard; I Only Have Eyes for You; Cycling; All Blues; The Start of Something Small; BTU.
Personnel: Dave Liebman: saxophones, flutes; Steve Swallow: electric bass; Adam Nussbaum: drums.
Style: Modern Jazz/Free Improvisation
We Three -- a review
All About Jazz 2006
By Robert R. Calder
This is maybe my favourite Dave Liebman recording, in part because of the other two players on it. Drummer Adam Nussbaum composed the title track, and by alternating between the bass and guitar capacities of his instrument, Steve Swallow makes a little masterpiece of Liebman's creative improvisation. There's much more to it than pretty phrasing--nothing loose, perfect tension, no longueurs.
When Swallow goes all bass on his own “Up and Adam,” Liebman's tenor skips, displaying virtues associated variously with Stan Getz and Sonny Rollins; and on another Swallow number, the lyrical, midtempo “Whistling Past the Graveyard,” the tenor echoes are nearer to Ben Webster. Liebman's no chameleon; these varying resemblances just help map his exceptional personal tonal variety. He uses space, and the spaces he leaves on this number fill amazingly, with Nussbaum's alterations of dynamics and accent. Notice Swallow's walking bass on his electric instrument.
”The Jewish Warrior” starts out almost Celtic, Liebman's soprano sounding flute-toned, Swallow sounding almost Indian. “I Only Have Eyes for You,” which starts with the bassist playing his instrument like a guitar, later finds him and Nussbaum keeping things going through a virtuoso multi-note ballad performance in the line of Benny Golson, Don Byas, and Lucky Thompson. Attention to detail liberates this set from looseness, and when Liebman repeats a riff or motif, he does so with new phrasing each time.
Swallow calls upon a whole range of voices on the bass guitar. Its middle voice gets great play on Nussbaum's “Cycling.” Yet another of Swallow's compositions here, “The Start of Something Small,” could pass for an unknown Ellington ballad for Johnny Hodges. There are three terrific ballad performances here, as well as Nussbaum's riff-theme ”BTU,” a fast-medium performance surging to such a temperature that the studio fade of the last bars might have been a safety measure.
The rhythm titans provide a very full dynamic background for Liebman on Miles Davis's ”All Blues,” with a very notable train rhythm passage toward the conclusion. The duo passage on Thelonious Monk's “Played Twice,” bridging between a theme statement on soprano (something like the recently deceased Steve Lacy's classic performance on The Straight Horn) and Liebman's own very individual solo.
The last time I saw Lacy, I came away from the performance with a friend asking me, “why is jazz so satisfying?”
I'll refer him to this set.
We Three -- a review
Challenge Jazz 2006
By C. Michael Bailey
We Three is a trio of giants, composed of winds-fixture Dave Liebman, ubiquitous bassist Steve Swallow, and accomplished drummer Adam Nussbaum. With a line up like this, the listener might expect something a bit out of the ordinary and that is precisely what he or she gets. If Dave Liebman is in the picture, Thelonious Monk cannot be far behind, and indeed that master appears on the rarely covered “Played Twice.” Liebman’s soprano tone is sharp and tart in the head and then lazily lags into the solo, supported by Swallow’s elastic bass fiddling. The trio relationship here is more about contrapuntal interplay than ensemble performance. The players stop just short of going their separate ways and maintain the common groove.
The Monkian spirit of “Played Twice” infuses this disc with adventure and abstraction. The disc opens on a funky spunky note with “What Time Is It,” with all on board for a boisterous ride. Adam Nussbaum’s “We Three” is introduced by a lengthy soprano saxophone figure before stretching into a nuevo ballade with Steve Swallow’s signature strummed bass. When soloing, Swallow chooses a circuitous harmonic path that broadens the composition’s time. Swallow returns the favor of composition with “Up And Adam,” where Liebman plays tenor over a treacherous time signature nailed down by Nussbaum and Swallow (Monk is never far away).
The standard “I Only Have Eyes For You” is presented with a Swallow pizzicato introduction before Liebman’s tenor flows in languidly over Nussbaum’s light tom-tom play. Miles Davis’ “All Blues” is taken at a full waltz, Liebman’s soprano saxophone presenting the theme with virtuosic conviction.
Trio dates don't get much better than this one. If We Three is where the saxophone trio has come since Sonny Rollins’ trios in the late ‘50s, then the direction must be right.
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