BEAVERCREEK — A National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master says his career began when he saw John Coltrane live at a jazz club in New York City.
It was February of 1962. Dave Liebman was 15.
“One of the older guys in the high school band said, ‘Hey, we’re going to this club to see John Coltrane. Come with us.’,” Liebman recalled.
The group of students went to Birdland in Midtown Manhattan and listened to the saxophonist.
“It made my life. It was my original inspiration,” Liebman continued. “It was a major factor in determining the direction of my life.”
Decades later, Liebman is bringing his band to Beavercreek High School, hoping they might spark that same inspiration in a few Ohio band students along the way.
Beavercreek Weekend of Jazz will be held Thursday-Saturday, March 1-3 at the Beavercreek High School Alumni Auditorium, 2660 Dayton Xenia Road.
“There’s something about playing music — you don’t read about it, you don’t go to the gym — you experience it,” Liebman said. “And that’s how it went for me. Something inspired me to do this.”
The Dave Liebman Big Band will first be present for students during Master Classes on Saturday, March 3.
Liebman, Big Band horn players and Big Band rhythm section players will host classes on different topics like life as a professional musician, improvisation and playing with an ensemble. The classes are free and open to students and the public.
“We’ll start by playing, then talk about what we played. We’ll get students to play and interact with them,” Liebman said. “It’s one thing to perform on the stage with the excitement of a live performance — but it’s another thing to have one to one contact.”
At 8 p.m., the Dave Liebman Big Band will take the stage.
“We are playing the repertoire of Wayne Shorter, John Coltrane and myself — we’re calling it the Wayne Trane & More. The more is me,” Liebman said. “Within the repertoire, there’s some stylistic changes but I would say in general it’s straight ahead classic modern jazz with a twist.”
Liebman is the major soloist and will play the soprano saxophone.
“The soprano cuts through … it’s a little more unusual to see in front of a band,” Liebman said. “I’m kind of near the tradition of having an unusual lead instrument in front of a big band.”
Liebman said his 18-member band will play a unique arrangement but those in the audience who know jazz will be familiar with some of it.
“You’ll be able to hear a lot of the tunes in a new light,” he said. “When I present a set I try to make a variety of moods — from exciting and dense to more lyrical and beautiful ballads. It goes on the pendulum from left to right, slow to fast, loud tune to soft tune … I like to keep consistency but also keep variety. It’s kind of like when you have a main dish and great little side dishes also.”
Liebman has toured extensively and is featured in more than 500 recordings. He also writes music, authors books and instructional DVDs, and is the founder and artistic director of the International Association of Schools of Jazz. He teaches at the Manhattan School of Music in New York and is a lecturer at the Global Jazz Institute at Berklee College in Boston.
Also performing during the weekend is Friday’s headliner, the Victor Wooten Trio featuring drummer Dennis Chambers and saxophonist Bob Franceschini. The trio will take the stage at 8 p.m. Friday, March 2.
Victor Wooten is a five-time Grammy Award winner and a founding member of supergroup Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. Rolling Stone magazine named him one of the Top 10 Bassists of All Time. Known for his innovative style, he’s also the only person to be named Bass Player of the Year three times by Bass Player magazine readers.
“If you were going to watch the Olympics and see Shaun White, or go to a football game to watch Peyton Manning, or go to a basketball game with LeBron James, you wouldn’t have to know anything about those sports to enjoy them because of how great those guys are at what they do,” Beavercreek High School Assistant Band Director Marlyn Strickland said. “The same goes for Victor Wooten and Dave Liebman: You could show up to an act, knowing nothing about jazz, and you’re going to have a great time because of how great they are.”
Tickets are on sale for Dave Liebman Big Band and Victor Wooten Trio at weekendofjazz.org; $33 for adults and $23 for students and seniors. Seating is first come first seated. High school doors will open at 6:30 p.m both nights. Auditorium doors will open around 7:10 p.m. Those needing assistance should let the door greeters know.
Contact Anna Bolton at 937-502-4498 or follow @annadbolton on Facebook.