David Liebman was born in Brooklyn, New York, on September 4, 1946. He began classical piano lessons at the age of nine and saxophone by twelve. His interest in jazz was sparked by seeing John Coltrane perform live in New York City clubs such as Birdland, the Village Vanguard, and the Half Note. Throughout high school and college, Liebman pursued his jazz interest by studying with Joe Allard, Lennie Tristano, and Charles Lloyd, as well as by taking a leading role in organizing musicians into cooperative, Free Life Communication¯all part of the lively New York “loft” jazz scene. Upon graduation from New York University with a degree in American history, he began to devote himself seriously to the full-time pursuit of being a jazz artist.
After some time spent with Ten Wheel Drive, one of the early jazz fusion groups, Liebman secured the saxophone/flute position with the group of legendary Coltrane drummer Elvin Jones. Within two years, Liebman reached the zenith of his apprenticeship period when Miles Davis hired him. These years, 1970–74, were filled with tours, recordings, and the incredible experience gained by being on the bandstand with two masters of jazz. At the same time, Liebman began exploring his own music—first in the Open Sky Trio with Bob Moses and then with Richie Beirach in Lookout Farm. This group recorded for the German-based ECM label as well as A&M/Horizon and toured India, Japan, and Europe. In the United States, Lookout Farm was recognized as number one in the category of Group Deserving of Wider Recognition in the 1976 Downbeat International Critics’ Poll.
In 1977, Liebman did a world tour with Chick Corea and by 1978 formed the David Liebman Quintet with John Scofield, Kenny Kirkland, and Terumasa Hino as featured sidemen. After several world tours and recordings by the quintet over three years, he reunited with Richard Beirach. They began performing and recording as a duo, as well as forming the group Quest in 1981. Beginning with George Mraz and Al Foster, the group solidified when Ron McClure on bass and Billy Hart on drums joined in 1984. Through 1991, Quest recorded seven CDs, toured extensively, and did many workshops with students worldwide.
In the 1990s, the Dave Liebman Group, with Phil Markowitz on keyboards, Vic Juris on guitar, Jamey Haddad on drums, and Tony Marino on bass recorded several CDs; toured Europe, Japan and Israel; and pursued a very eclectic, contemporary style. As of 2000, the present lineup includes Juris, Marino, and newcomer Marko Marcinko.
Over the past several decades, Liebman has often been featured with top European musicians such as Joachim Kuhn, Daniel Humair, Paolo Fresu, Jon Christensen, Bobo Stenson, and the World View Trio with Austrian drummer Wolfgang Reisenger and French bassist Jean-Paul Celea.
His reputation in Europe has led to big band and radio orchestra performances, such as those with the WDR in Cologne, the Metropole Orchestra, and the new music group Klang Forum in Vienna, playing music especially commissioned to feature Liebman’s unique soprano saxophone style. He has consistently placed in the top five of the Downbeat Critics’ Poll since 1973 in the soprano sax category.
Liebman has published several books on a variety of subjects; instructional videos; and chamber music and has contributed regularly to various periodicals such as the Saxophone Journal and the Jazz Educators’ Journal. His teaching activities at universities and in clinic settings have taken him literally around the world, primarily because of his varied musical interests, expertise on several instruments, and ability to articulate the intricacies of the jazz language and technique. Over the years, he has regularly received grantees to study with him funded by the NEA and the Canadian Arts Council, as well as arts councils of numerous additional countries. Liebman himself has received two NEA grants for composition