“Spiderwebmandala” is an exercise in artful improvisation

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Bill Payne and Carol Liebowitz have been playing together since 2010. The clarinetist and pianist, respectively, have recorded an album in 2015, as part of a trio with violinist Eva Lindal, called Payne Lindal Liebowitz. The trio received accolades for being original and mixing lyricism with intensity. Now, Payne and Liebowitz have joined forces for “Spiderwebmandala.” The album is forthcoming on Sept. 7, 2018.

The new album was recorded live at Outpost Performance Space in Albuquerque, New Mexico in May 2016. The recorded performances were curated by poet Mark Weber, as the musicians performed for friends. Weber also joins Payne and Liebowitz on tracks 2 and 6.

The group, Payne Lindal Liebowitz, and their album of the same name have been applauded by various jazz critics and publications. The disc was voted one of the Top Ten Jazz CDs by Art Lange in the 2015 NPR Jazz Critics Poll.

The sound of “Spiderwebmandala”

The album is comprised of nine thoughtful tracks. Each track proves the musicianship of the artists. There is an artful vibe in each song. Whether the rhythm is regular or not, the piano lines smooth or jagged and discordant, there is a purposeful bent to each song. The clarinet, too, is capable of both smooth playing and jagged bleating.

This is not a jazz album for dancing; it is also not a smooth jazz vibe-setting kind of recording, either. Instead, “Spiderwebmandala” is atmospheric and thought-provoking. Particularly tracks No. 2, the title track, and No. 7, “Notes on a Dream.”

The live and supportive audience is a nice touch on the recording. But the obvious selling point is the music itself. Each song unfurls with a series of notes that either set the tone to come, or that prepare listeners for a switch in pace or some other quality.

Through the songs contained on “Spiderwebmandala,” it is easy to see how Liebowitz and Payne have earned the accolades they have. The “tone sculptures” the pair create have sides to them that must be heard multiple times. One listen hardly does the work any justice.

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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