On the title track to Blue Rose
, the first full-length collaboration between saxophonist Dave Liebman and guitarist John Stowell, Liebman supplies the lilting melody of the ballad Duke Ellington wrote for Rosemary Clooney. Meanwhile, Lieb's longtime friend and associate offers warmly hued chords and fills. The reedman's full-throated tone on soprano is at once earthy and sublime. Hie and Stowell connect intuitively. Sometimes they move as one, while other times, one partner provides a quiet counterpoint to the other's motion.
Liebman and Stowell recorded together more than a decade ago on the guitarist's Banff Sessions. They peruse a similar tack throughout this collection of tunes by notable composers, although the textures vary. Before switching to tenor sax, Liebman deploys a wood flute over Stowell's steel-string playing on the free-floating, extended opening to Wayne Shorter's "Black Eyes." And his tenor rides atop Stowell's swinging, accented chords for a hard-blowing workout on Shorter's "Fe Fi Fo Fum," during which the saxophonist tosses in what sounds like a quote from A Love Supreme
Liebman moves to piano for a restrained, delicate reading of Bill Evans' "Time Remembered." Stowell states the theme and then offers a rangy, slowing-and-speeding improvisation. Again they take the piano-guitar route on "How Deep Is The Ocean," only hinting at the melody of Irving Berlin's standard.
The players' stylistic range is as impressive as it is appealing. Liebman takes a soprano lead on Jobim's bossa treasure "Inutil Paisagem," then switches to tenor for the next track, Joe Farrell's quick-shifting "Molten Glass." Soprano and guitar engage in a lovely waltz-time dance on Kenny Wheeler's "Everybody's Song by My Own," which also offers unaccompanied space for Stowell. Blue Rose
is a pairing that demands an encore.