Dave Liebman soprano, tenor saxes, alto c flute
Richard Beirach electric, acoustic piano
Frank Tusa electric, acoustic bass
Jeff Williams drums
John Abercrombie acoustic, electric guitar
Armen Halburian percussion
Don Alias congas, bongos
Badal Roy tablas
Steve Sattan tamburine, cowbell
Eleana Sternberg voice
Recorded October 10/11, 1973 at Generation Sound Studios
Engineer: Tony May
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Saxophonist, flutist, and all-around wunderkind Dave Liebman—who only last year received an NEA Jazz Masters lifetime achievement award for his tireless efforts in music and instruction—made his ECM debut with Lookout Farm, his first of only two albums for producer Manfred Eicher as leader (the other being the enthralling Drum Ode; he would also guest on Steve Swallow’s Home some six years later) and a trendsetter for fledgling improvisers seeking their voices in the seventies and beyond. Here, he is joined by a telepathic ensemble that includes regulars Richie Beirach and John Abercrombie, in addition to a pointed percussion section. Abercrombie’s quasi-flamenco arpeggios open the evocative “Pablo’s Story.” Liebman leads in on flute, establishing an intimate flywheel from which is spun a most democratic mosaic of intersections, solos, and rhythmic ecstasy. Liebman (switching to soprano sax) and Beirach provide the skeleton of the track’s flexible physiology. An intuitive pattern of tension and release ensues, thus maintaining a solid unity throughout. Frank Tusa’s understated yet richly emotive bass lines bring out a vital inner depth, and one can hardly remain static during the hand-drummed interlude. “Sam’s Float” introduces a more hardened sound, cut to the core by Leibman’s alto squeals and Abercrombie’s biting electricity. The 24-minute “M.D./Lookout Farm” closes this humble set of three. The first half turns down the lights with its elegiac piano and tender reeds, while the title half transports us with Jeff Williams’s downright flammable drumming.
A spectacular sense of curiosity would seem to be de rigueur in Liebman territory, its infectiousness inescapable. This is a milestone album, not only for the liberating musicianship and timeless sounds, but also for its production value. With Lookout Farm, Eicher channeled the reverberant specter that has haunted the label’s sound ever since, and with it an entirely new way of listening emerged.
A pilgrimage for the ECM enthusiast.