It was in late June 2007 that NEA Jazz Master Dave Liebman received a call from Robert Abel, the producer of BBC’s popular radio program “Something Else.” Noting that July 17, 2007 marked the 40th anniversary of John Coltrane’s passing, Robert asked if he could bring in Saxophone Summit, Liebman’s outfit co-led with Grammy Award-winner Joe Lovano and Ravi Coltrane, to record an all-Coltrane program for the show. With the recording date just a few weeks away, Liebman managed to assemble regular members Lovano, Phil Markowitz, and Billy Hart along with Ron McClureas a substitute for the unavailable Cecil McBee. Recorded on June 22, 2007, almost forty years to the day after John Coltrane’s death, the quintet laid down 50+ fascinating minutes of music that showcases the breadth of John Coltrane relatively short but momentous musical legacy. Now a decade later, Resonance is proud to bring the recording to light.
To commemorate Coltrane’s semicentennial on Resonance, there are arguably no other musicians better equipped for the job. The influence of John Coltrane on each member of the quintet can not be overstated; as Billy Hart says in the liner notes, “we’re just all unbelievable Coltrane fans.” He estimates that between the five of them, the study of Coltrane’s music has amounted to over 200 years collectively. Since 1999, Liebman and Lovano, along with Markowitz and Hart, have been paying homage to Coltrane with their Saxophone Summit ensemble. Originally founded alongside Michael Brecker, the current iteration features Greg Osby filling out the front line and pays particular attention to Trane’s oft-overlooked late period.
To celebrate the Coltrane anniversary, Liebman and Lovano decided that for this particular session they would broaden their scope to include music from all of Coltrane’s musical periods, thus producing a wide-ranging exploration that showcases six distinctive phases of his legacy. “Each period represents such a different outlook and concept that it’s incredible to imagine that one man accomplished all of this in such a short period,” says Liebman in the Compassion liner notes.
Compassion opens with “Locomotion,” one of Coltrane’s many compositional twists on the blues that first made an appearance on Blue Train (Coltrane’s only Blue Note recording) in 1958. “Locomotion” not only sets the stage for Compassion, but also served as an integral jumping off point in Coltrane’s musical development. As Lovano states in the liner notes, many of the intervals heard on “Locomotion” can be found in later Coltrane works — the main theme of A Love Supreme being just one example.
Compassion moves forward with a ballad medley that includes the harmonically rich “Central Park West,” featuring Lovano and “Dear Lord,” which Liebman has referred to as “one of the most amazing compositions in the world.”
The inclusion of “Olé” signifies Coltrane’s well-documented interest in world music. A modal excursion with a Spanish tinged melody (borrowed heavily from the Spanish folk song “El Vito”), “Olé” served as a precursor to Trane’s later explorations of other cultures (tunes such as “India,” “Dakur” and “Brasilia” come to mind).
Named for Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., “Reverend King” is a completely diatonic study in free time that features a rare appearance of Liebman on flute. Next up is "Equinox," which, like the opening track, is another version of the blues. The album then comes to a close with “Compassion,” from which the recording gets its namesake. "Compassion" brings us into Trane’s late period (1965-1967) with the second movement of his Meditations suite. “Subsequent song titles point toward Trane’s intense spiritual journey of this period — “Amen,” “To Be” and many more — all emphasizing the constant group interaction with little steady pulse or direct harmonic progressions,” says Liebman.
Available on June 2, 2017 as a Deluxe CD and digital format, the CD package includes an exquisite digipak and 24-page liner note booklet that includes photos by Chuck Stewart, Richard Conde, John Abbott, Andrew Lepley, Vincent Soyez and more; exclusive interviews and statements by Liebman, Lovano, Markowitz, McClure, and Hart, and essays by Resonance producer Zev Feldman and Ashley Kahn. “For an archival production, this might be the most recent recording Resonance has released to date, but we didn’t want to treat it any differently than our previous efforts,” says Executive Producer Zev Feldman. “I can think of no closer and devoted adherents to the music and legacy of Coltrane than Dave Liebman, Joe Lovano and this band.” Feldman adds that within the booklet one can find a wealth of knowledge from each musician as they shed light on the influence Trane had on them and how his music still holds such influence fifty years since his passing.
Says Billy Hart in closing: “I just think the world is a better place when you hear Coltrane’s music.”
"Compassion" is a wonderful tribute as well as a reminder of the vivid trails that John Coltrane blazed during his short but often amazing tenure in our world." Read the full review here.
THE IRISH TIMES
"The six Coltrane compositions here - including Locomotion, Central Park West and Equinox – are given new life by two great saxophonists." Read the full review here.
NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD
"This is a heartfelt, inspired session by a group of artists clearly shaped and inspired by Coltrane and dedicated to carrying on his musical legacy." Read the full feature here.
"Liebman/Lovano quintet strikes with ravishment and gusto, showing their reverence for Coltrane’s legacy while exhibiting their own special gifts." Read the full review here.
"The full breadth of the shortlived Coltrane’s legacy is rarely celebrated so authoritatively and completely." Read the full review here.
THE BUFFALO NEWS
"...the playing, solo or in tandem, is exceptional from both saxophonists. (Some of the best Lovano I've heard in 20 years is here.)" Read the full review here.
Ranked No. 1 on "Top 10 Jazz Albums You Must Know About: June 2017"
THE ARTS FUSE
"These are distinctive jazz masters at work: Lovano’s sound is lighter than Trane’s, while Liebman’s approach is decidedly more indirect, oblique." Read the full review here.
RALPH A. MIRIELLO
THE HUFFINGTON POST
"For any Coltrane fan this one is a keeper." Read the full review here.
"It's work like this that reaffirms Coltrane's enduring influence." Read the full review here.
GEORGE W. HARRIS
"Liebman’s flute work on the obscure “Reverend King” is a trip into outer space, while Lovano’s alto clarinet takes the listener into Eric Dolphy territory." Read the full review here.
THE BLURT JAZZ DESK
"From thrilling to adventurous to soothing, Lovano, Liebman and band strike all the right notes." Read the full review here.
DEE DEE MCNEIL
MUSICAL MEMOIRS BLOG
"You will find this CD a fine tribute piece to our great legend, John Coltrane." Read the full review here.
"It’s a passionate and compelling reminder (if any were needed) of Trane’s endurance in jazz." Read the full review here.
LONDON JAZZ NEWS
"In the half century since Coltrane’s death, hundreds of tribute albums have been issued. While some are very good indeed there are few as good as Compassion." Read the full review here.
"This one opens your ears. This one is as new as a retrospective session gets." Read the full review here.
JAZZ SCENE MAGAZINE
"Sometimes you just want a new record with certified masters swinging and shredding like crazy on Coltrane tunes. That is exactly what this is." Read the full review here.
RAUL DA GAMA
JAZZ DA GAMA
"Compassion-The Music of John Coltrane doesn’t disappoint, as Dave Liebman and Joe Lovano with Phil Markowitz, Ron McClure and Billy Hart bring theatrical flair to this Coltrane music." Read the full review here.
"Liebman and Lovano have captured the diverse musicality and artistry of Coltrane with daring instrumental prowess and artistic vision." Read the full review here.
(On "Locomotion") "Simple stuff, but it's one of the best performances on the album because Liebman and Lovano are such masterful blues players, and on an album marked by collaboration, competition also stir - this is rousing stuff that reminds us of how Coltrane's patterns have become ingrained into the contemporary jazz saxophone vocabulary." Read the full review here.