More than 20 years ago, Dave Liebman laid down his tenor saxophone to concentrate solely on the soprano, and he still commands one of the three definitive voices on that instrument. (Wayne Shorter. Steve Lacy.) Few of those who’ve tinkered with the soprano have been able to find its full range, to maintain the horn’s sinewy strength while exploiting its fluttery grace, yet Liebman goes even further: he plays as if within his instrument, rather than using it merely as an extension of his musical intellect. 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 the fervor that characterized that genre at its best. Many jazzmen like to treat the “cerebral” and the “emotional” elements of music like matter and antimatter, as if you would fail to feel if you began to think. But Liebman–like his figurative mentor, John Coltrane–displays the passion of intellect. He understands the emotional excitement of brilliant ideas. The members of Liebman’s Chicago rhythm section, taken as a unit, cover much of the same ground: you have the sizzling virtuosity of pianist Jim Trompeter on the one hand and the explosive energy of Joel Spencer’s drumming on the other, with Kelly Sill’s immaculately focused bass work serving as the eye of the storm. Friday through Sunday, Joe Segal’s Jazz Showcase, Blackstone Hotel, 636 S. Michigan; 427-4846.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Douth Image.