Last Desert

“The Sip”


For 20 years, Liberty Ellman’s tart, taut guitar lines have provided an essential color to Henry Threadgill’s Zooid ensemble. So perhaps it’s inevitable that his latest solo recording, Last Desert (Pi), would bear some sonic echoes of his work with Threadgill, particularly in that Zooid bandmate Jose Davila joins him once again on tuba. Also returning to the guitarist’s side are saxophonist Steve Lehman, trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson, bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Damion Reid, all of whom appeared on his 2015 release Radiate. Ellman’s sparse and economical playing blends beautifully with the group sound, a carefully constructed tapestry in which texture and mood triumph over displays of individual virtuosity. Which isn’t to say that the players aren’t masterful, just that they’re willing to subsume their egos for the sake of the song. Such is the case with leadoff track “The Sip,” in which Ellman quietly begins the tune in conversation with Crump’s resonant bass notes before the horns slip into the mix. Reid lends pattering support, Davila’s low-end growl teases the ear, and Lehman and Finlayson offer eloquent unisons and solos. While understated, Ellman’s charismatic playing, whether at the fore or in support of his bandmates, proves that the most interesting voices aren’t necessarily the loudest or flashiest.

Purchase Album:

The Authoritative Voice in Jazz