Pianist and vocalist, Carol Liebowitz, and tenor saxophone player, Birgitta Flick, have collaborated on a new album of stunning lyricism and surprising improvisational turns. “Malita-Malika” was released October 2018. The songs are a mix of classics and originals. All bear the handcrafted feel of Liebowitz’s other works. On “Malita-Malika” the pair illustrate their abilities to move from one type of song to another. The album is a Downbeat magazine “Editor’s Pick.”
The music succeeds on its ability to highlight the parts that do not fit together traditionally, but somehow sounds right here. The duo’s mood-making is excellent and makes the album an interesting one to listen to. The album’s title track, is an effective example of what the recording has to offer.
About Liebowitz and Flick, in brief
The two met in 2010. A chance meeting in a Berlin jazz club changed their histories for the time being, in addition to the history of jazz. In 2014, the pair met each other again, this time in New York City. The subsequent meeting led to the two playing intensively together, which led to shows in Europe and New York City.
Flick is an educator and musician who lives in Berlin. The performer’s biography is chock full of educational and professional forays into jazz. Her duo work with Liebowitz is just one of the many groups that she is in. As busy as she seems to be, it is no wonder that Flick’s Berlin-based quartet also released an album around the same time. In addition, the saxophonist also plays with a German-Swedish-Finnish band called Flickstick. It is with Flickstick that Flick won the 2012 Jazz Baltica Fordepreis. Further, Flick’s performance opportunities include her membership in the Nico Lohmann Quintet, the Stockholm-based Fluxmachine, and the German Women’s Jazz Orchestra. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in jazz composition at Royal College of Music, Stockholm. Her work with Liebowitz was funded by a scholarship from the city of Berlin.
Liebowitz trained at the High School of the Performing Arts and New York University. She has a career that has included collaborating and playing with notable artists throughout Europe and in New York City. Liebowitz is also associated with unique projects that find the performer taking risks and pushing the boundaries of jazz in tandem with another stellar musician.
Her recording, “Payne Lindal Liebowitz,” the self-titled project of the trio she formed with clarinetist Bill Payne and violinist Eva Lindal. The CD was named a Top Ten Jazz CD in the 2015 NPR Critics Poll. In July 2018, Liebowitz released “Spiderwebmandala” which was a recording project with Bill Payne (an additional one with the clarinetist) and poet Mark Weber.
The sound of “Malita-Malika” by Carol Liebowitz and Birgitta Flick
There are a variety of ways to describe the soundscape on “Malita-Malika.” The tracks range from meditative to artfully off-kilter. The mix of piano, tenor saxophone and sometimes voice, generates a gentle soundscape that provokes thought and pushes the boundaries of jazz, which in turn, challenges audiences’ expectations.
“Malita-Malika” by Carol Liebowitz and Birgitta Flick
The album’s title track opens with plaintive tenor saxophone strains. Dark, resonant chords from the piano underscore the saxophone’s sound. Then, the mood shifts slightly and the musicians take advantage of the silence to build dynamics. The silence, however brief, serves as a dramatic pause. The instruments go on in their contrasted ways. The saxophone lines become almost-strained, but on purpose. Some of the best moments happen when it sounds as if the two are exploring a chord together. The slow pace of it gives the song its serious feel. The different saxophone tones at the end are particularly nice.
“Malita-Malika” is an album full of beautifully unexpected turns. From artful to simply avant-garde-sounding, the album is a thoughtful example of what risk-taking sounds like in jazz.