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 taking a leading
role in organizing musicians into a 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 seriously devote
himself 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 band
stand 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 U.S., Lookout Farm was recognized as number
one in the category 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 drummer 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 in 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 with the WDR in Koln, the Metropole Orchestra
and the new music "Klang Forum" in Vienna, Austria
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 several books published on a variety of subjects,
instructional videos, published 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, aesthetic and technique. Over the
years, he has regularly received grantees to study with
him funded by the NEA (U.S.), the Canadian Arts Council,
as well as Arts Councils of numerous countries. Liebman
himself has received two NEA grants for composition (1980)
and performance (1991).
In 1989, he founded and serves as Artistic Director of
the International Association of Schools of Jazz, an organization
dedicated to networking educators and students from international
jazz schools through periodic meetings, exchange programs
In 1997, Liebman received an Honorary Doctorate of Music
from the prestigious Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland.
In 1998, David was nominated for a Grammy in the category
of Best Jazz Solo for the recording of "My Favorite
Things" from Thank You, John (Arkadia).
In 2000, Liebman was inducted into the Hall of Fame of
The International Association of Jazz Educators for his
contributions to jazz pedagogy.
In 2001, he received the Fred Waring Award from COTA,
which organizes a yearly festival in the Pocono Mountains
of Pennsylvania where he resides with his wife Caris and
daughter Lydia, for outstanding contributions to the arts
Liebman is a member of the Jazz Improv Board of Advisors,
and The Jazz Alliance.
As of the present, David Liebman has been featured on
nearly 300 recordings, of which he has been the leader
and/or co-leader on over 100. Well over 200 original compositions
have been recorded. His artistic output has ranged from
straight ahead to chamber jazz; from fusion to avant garde.
This diversity has always been marked by its conviction,
singular approach and a sense of adventure highly valued
in Liebman's aesthetic.