MILLHEIM — “I was standing in Birdland watching John Coltrane, a living piece of musical history, perform and I was thinking I played the same instrument he did, but mine never sounded like that.”
And so began the spark that ignited a passionate fire inside the young and impressionable Dave Liebman, who knew at that moment he wanted to be a musician.
Fifty years and a multitude of performances and world tours later, Lieb, as he is often referred to, continues to create a style of jazz that is a step and a note above everything else.
Saturday evening, Liebman and his new group, Expansions, will bring all that jazz and a whole lot more to the Elk Creek Café in Millheim for a few hours of soulful sounds.
“People coming to Elk Creek this Saturday should expect to hear some jazz like they have never heard before, with a lot of style and energy,” Liebman said during a recent phone interview from his home in the Poconos. “I’ll be with my new group, a bunch of young guys who really bring a lot of energy and feeling to the music.”
Much like jazz music that is always changing and evolving, so is Liebman’s storied career that includes tours of Europe, Japan and across North America either with his own groups or as a guests musician.
He’s performed regularly at Birdland and a memorable concert at Carnegie Hall with jazz legend Miles Davis, although his most cherished musical moment happened in 2011 when Liebman, a gifted saxophonist and composer, received the NEA Masters of Jazz Award, the highest honor for jazz given by the United States government.
“I’ve been making music for four decades and have performed with some of the best and most talented jazz musicians in the world,” he said “I feel very grateful to be able to do something I truly love for a career.”
That career includes being featured on nearly 350 recordings, of which he has been the leader or co-leader on 150.
In addition to performing jazz, Liebman also composes a lot of his own music, which allows him to be close to the feeling for each song.
With Expansions, the five-piece group tackles jazz that is more modern and urban in sound and style that is also seasoned with a classical jazz undertone.
“Elk Creek is going to be a lot of fun. The owners are great people and the food is excellent,” Liebman said. “I like playing there because of its size and the audience is right there in front of you, so there is nothing separating the music from the crowd.”