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One of world’s foremost saxophonists and jazz educators to join U of T

David Liebman, former sideman for Miles Davis

The University of Toronto Faculty of Music has appointed David Liebman to the position of adjunct professor of jazz for the 2014-15 academic year.

Liebman will make four intensive visits to U of T in 2014-15 during which he will offer master classes to students in the jazz studies program and perform both on and off campus.

Hailing from Brooklyn, New York, Liebman apprenticed as a sideman in the groups of Elvin Jones and Miles Davis in the early 1970s. From the ensembles he co-led with pianist Richie Beirach (Lookout Farm, Quest) to his Sax Summit collaborations with Joe Lovano and the late Michael Brecker, Liebman has maintained a commitment to an individual sound steeped in the tradition of the 1960s jazz innovators whose music he absorbed as a teenager in New York City.

His work on more than 350 recordings has solidified his reputation as one of the greatest living jazz saxophonists.

“I texted all my friends as soon as I found out the news. This is a major ‘get’,” said Ali Berkok, second-year doctoral student in the jazz program.

Awarded the 2011 National Endowment for the Arts Master of Jazz, the highest honour granted for jazz in the U.S.,  Liebman is a pioneer in jazz education, and currently serves as artistic director of the International Association of Schools of Jazz (IASJ) and artist-in-residence at the Manhattan School of Music.

His book, A Chromatic Approach to Jazz Harmony and Melody, was arguably the first comprehensive methods book to decode the chromatic language that John Coltrane and his contemporaries brought to jazz improvisation in the 1960s.

This methodology has been taught by Liebman at the Manhattan School of Music for more than a decade, and will be introduced to students in the Faculty of Music’s master's and doctor of musical arts programs.  

“Liebman is a master innovator, improviser and educator,” says second-year undergraduate jazz saxophone student Anthony Argatoff, recalling Liebman’s visit to the Faculty of Music last year.

“His way of articulating and instructing concepts and ideas is incredible.”

The addition of Liebman brings a new and exciting dimension to an already vibrant jazz performance program, placing U of T at the forefront of post-secondary jazz education in Canada, said Gordon Foote, professor of jazz.

“We are extremely fortunate to have Liebman add his considerable experience and ability to inspire to the growing momentum of the University of Toronto jazz program."

Aaron Wong is a writer with the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto.