Album Remarks & Appraisals:
"The band called Contact is about as all-star an affair as can be found in modern jazz, and it's hard to imagine any serious listener not having a favorite among the players, whether it's saxophonist and renaissance man Dave Liebman, pianist Marc Copland—whose marvelous New York Trio Recordings pushed his profile up closer to where it belongs—ECM Records stalwart/guitarist John Abercrombie, veteran drummer Billy Hart, or ubiquitous super sideman/bassist Drew Gress. Five on One burns brightly, with a highly cohesive chamber ensemble sound, with no star outshining the others... Five on One is one of those rare all-star efforts that exceeds expectations, and will certainly be tagged for "Best of the Year" lists." -All About Jazz
"It goes without saying these five artists have a dynamic unity, bring a concentrated interaction to the nine tracks and reveal a complete sensitivity to each other over the hour long program... Five on One embodies the ideal of quiet intensity. The material has tension, commanding characteristics and brooding strength. This is not music that slaps, nevertheless there is a softened weight that permeates every moment, poised but ready to strike, akin to an Akira Kurasawa samurai." -Audiophile Audition
"Five incisive figures in jazz - tenor and soprano saxophonist Dave Liebman, guitarist John Abercrombie, pianist Marc Copland, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Billy Hart - find an intimacy and intensity that is rare among all-star ensembles on Five In One. A stylistically diverse collection of eight originals and one standard, the album (recorded in the States and mixed in Pirouet's Munich studio) evinces an impression of vibrant unity, intimate warmth, wide-open exploration and completley natural group interplay. If you like modern straightahead jazz composed and performed by some of its top practicioners, look no further than this supremely executed and well-paced collaboration." - Ed Enright, Downbeat, July, 2010
"They've played together in various permutations and combinations, butFive on One represents the first time they've joined together as a discrete unit. Reconvening the Second Look (Savoy, 1996) quartet - which comprises four-fifths of Contact - pianist Marc Copland proved you cango back again with Another Place (Pirouet, 2009). The quartet's bassist,Drew Gress, has also been a longstanding member of Copland's piano trio, last heard on Night Whispers: New York Trio Recordings Vol. 3(Pirouet, 2009). Its drummer, Billy Hart, teamed with saxophonist Dave Liebman in Quest, a late-'80s group that reunited for a 2005 tour, documented on Redemption: Live in Europe (Hatology, 2007). Finally, guitarist John Abercrombie was a charter member of the 1970s group Lookout Farm with Liebman. Closing the circle, Liebman and Copland are no strangers, having joined forces for the duo recording Bookends, and quartet set Lunar, both released in 2002 on Switzerland's Hatology label.
Contact brings these five players together for an egalitarian set of eight originals and one standard - a surprisingly open-ended look at the enduring classic, "You and the Night and the Music," which runs the gamut from a dark, modal vamp that immediately speaks Copland's distinctive harmonic voice (and provides a unique context for the song's familiar melody) to fiercely swinging grist for some uncharacteristically outgoing solo playing from the normally pensive pianist.
It's the very combination of a pianist who, more often than not, leans towards introspection and impressionism, and a saxophonist for whom the word "burning" is rarely seen far from his name, that makes Five on One such a revelation. Each player demonstrates his individual strengths and predilections, but coming together clearly pushes each into unexpected territory, as Copland's skewed romanticism and harmonic ambiguity on his own "Childmoon Smile" leads to a soprano solo from Liebman that combines passionate lyricism and evocative leaps into the instrument's upper register.
Abercrombie's writing dominates the set, with three tunes including the almost-album-titled "Four on One," essentially a free improvisation with a brief head that acts as both context setter and rallying point. Taken to far greater extremes than versions on the guitarist's Night (ECM, 1984) or John Abercrombie/Marc Johnson/Peter Erskine (ECM, 1989), it combines a collective chemistry, engendered from years of working in other contexts, with an equally vital sound of surprise, stemming from this first encounter as a unit. As ever, Abercrombie's biggest strength lies in his ability to possess a distinct and recognizable voice without resorting to stock phrases or musical devices that, over time, begin to ring of repetitiveness and predictability.
A description that can, in fact, apply to everyone in Contact. Whether it's turning to starker melodism on Liebman's "Lost Horizon" (co-written with wife Caris Visentin) or revisiting Gress' slow-cooking "Like It Never Was," from the bassist's outstanding 7 Black Butterflies (Premonition, 2005), this is a marriage of many qualities that could, in other hands, work against each other, but here serendipitously assert a unique and compelling collective voice. With a debut this strong, here's hoping Five on One isn't a one-off affair." -AllAboutJazz
Personnel: John Abercrombie (guitar); David Liebman (soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone); Marc Copland (piano); Billy Hart (drums).
Audio Mixer: Jason Seizer.
Recording information: Bennett Studios, NJ (01/06/2010/01/07/2010).
Photographers: Konstantin Kern; Karen Faber.
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