Nearly three decades after he put down his tenor sax to concentrate on the soprano, Dave Liebman remains one of that instrument’s three definitive modern voices. (Wayne Shorter and Steve Lacy complete the triumvirate, with Jane Ira Bloom not so far behind.) But unlike the others, Liebman hasn’t chosen to strip his playing down to bare essentials. Instead, he dives into the soprano’s serpentine depths, and his style emerges slippery and quicksilver, with a bubbling-up virtuosity: he solos not so much from behind the horn as from within it. Liebman came to prominence with Miles Davis in the tumultuous mid-70s band that marked some of fusion’s furthest frontiers, and his own music still rings with some of that fervor. (You hear this even more clearly when Liebman returns to electric instruments, as he has done with the band he brings to Chicago this weekend–it features longtime Liebman associates Phil Markowitz on keyboards and Vic Juris on guitars.) Liebman plays the same instruments as his idol, John Coltrane, and his musical ethos also summons up Coltrane’s ghost, as well as that of Eric Dolphy. These musicians were said to eat and sleep music, and Liebman suggests the same dedication: he has recorded scores of albums for a variety of labels; he has produced a slew of educational publications and founded an international jazz education association; and he has relentlessly experimented with his music’s format and context. Some musicians treat the cerebral and the emotional elements of music like matter and antimatter–as if you have to stop feeling when you begin to think. Liebman displays not only the passion of emotions but also the passion of intellect. He understands the emotional excitement of brilliant ideas, and his often dazzling, sinewy music rests on that cornerstone. Friday, 9 PM, and Saturday, 8 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway; 878-5552. Liebman and his band will lead a workshop and discussion Saturday, 2:30 PM, at the club. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/W. Patrick Hinely.