WAVES OF BLUE INTENSITIES
(NA1021)

Carol Liebowitz, piano and vocals
Bob Field, tenor saxophone


Liebowitz and Field mix freely improvised tracks with very loose versions of standards like "Melancholy Baby" and "Out of Nowhere." Field's free playing (especially on the standards) is very coherent and eminently lyrical, using the tune's melodic contours as a guide, while straying somewhat afield of the traditional harmonies. Liebowitz as much as ignores the changes completely. I imagine that she's playing off the melody as interpreted by Field, probably keeping the harmonic rhythm in mind to a degree, but relying mostly on her musical instincts, which are usually fine. The totally improvised cuts (especially the title track) are an unqualified success, though I wish they'd stretched them out a little more. The tunes are rathertoo familiar in their original form to stand up to this kind of treatment; the weight of historical expectation lies heavy on every note, which can be a distraction. I suppose had one never heard "All of Me," however, he orshe could easily accept Liebowitz and Field's rendering as definitive. Quite an unusual album, and one worth hearing.

Chris Kelsy, Jazz Now (online jazz magazine) New Sounds page, Oct. 1995

 

This wide-ranging duo covers a lot of musical turf. Whether playing a soothing ballad with warm tonalism, as on "These Foolish Things," or driving an agitated, free excursion like the title track, Liebowitz/Field admirably maintain their balance. Liebowitz is a rhythmically sophisticated improviser who is unafraid of dissonance. Even the more traditional tunes have an occasional jolting edge which infuses them with life. Field is relaxed no matter what the tempo, favoring a smooth, lyrical tone and an orderly, disciplined solo style. Liebowitz also sings in a tart voice not unlike her pianism. The juxtaposition of the new with the traditional is what this duo is all about. It's an often fascinating combination.

Carl Baugher, Cadence, Vol. 21, No.4, April 1995

 

Except for four jointly conceived originals, the material on which these performances are based is from the repertoire of standards whose interesting harmonic changes have always attracted the jazz improviser. But the approach chosen by this duo bears few overt ties to bop or any other modern jazz development adhering to recognizable, conventional elements of rhythm, harmony or melody. Brief thematic quotes and, in Liebowitz's vocal excursions, snippets of lyrics spin fine connecting threads to the original songs, but from there on the web takes on unpredictable designs.

Artists whose work is released on the New Artists label are frequently tagged as adherents to principles pioneered by pianist/teacher Lennie Tristano, but I don't believe they can always be so neatly summed up or packaged. As this duo demonstrates, individuality and curiosity neither began nor ended with Tristano, so there's good reason to appreciate these artists on their own merits. If you really have to put their talents and concepts to the test, just absorb what they do with "What Is This Thing Called Love." I'm not sure how composer Cole Porter would have responded but a liberal-minded and inquisitive jazz listener will find good reasons for repeated play.

Lois Moody, Jazz News, Nov./Dec. 1994



TIME ON MY HANDS
(NA1029CD)

Carol Liebowitz, vocals
Andy Fite, guitar

I’m not sure what most senior citizens would make of Carol Liebowitz’s renditions of the music of their lives. Liebowitz, with musical partner Andy Fite on guitar, takes this clutch of standards and twists and winds them into new shapes. What distinguishes her approach is her reverence for the words of the songs and high handedness with everything else. From the first chorus she bends the lyrics through her sweeping, melismatic improvisations. The impression is that Liebowitz is improvising the lyrics. This gives the poetry an urgent edge. I found myself hearing the lyrics afresh. “Love Me or Leave Me” is emotionally wrenching in a way I’ve never heard it.

Fite’s guitar work is spare, yet probing. He provides just the right underscoring for the singer’s emotional readings. In his solos, he never sounds like he’s straining to fill every measure to the max. He doesn’t play any notes that don’t count. Yet as understated as his improvisations are, they display utter confidence in his own mastery of the instrument. He fingers long melodic lines punctuated by dry stroked chords, leaving enough air to let his creations breathe. Fite deserves far more credit as a guitarist than he receives.

The pieces, though, have a surface sameness that can make the session wearying over its full length. This is an example of a date that probably would be far more effective on an LP with its two shorter, more focused sets.

Regardless of the medium, though, lovers of these songs who are not afraid of a little adventure, as well as guitar aficionados, should check this out.

David Dupont, Cadence