Driest of All Seasons
Over the past two years, Jason Liebman has managed the elusive feat of dodging classification while emerging as a singular musical force with wide appeal in the legendary and competitive New York City downtown. Now, with the release of his first full length LP, The Driest of All Seasons (For The Artist Records), Liebman stands poised to redraw the NYC borders and capture the national ear with a sound as unique and substantial as the scene that bore it. Ironically, it was another local music scene on the verge that first inspired the young guitarist to begin writing. Liebman was just beginning his second year of high school when the Seattle music scene picketed into the national spotlight opening the floodgates for the iconic and creatively fertile alternative movement of the early nineties. Like so many of his generation, the unfettered honesty, introspection and broad mélange of styles that defined alternative music mirrored Liebman's own quest for personal relevance and a unique voice. 'It was a stroke of luck...the music industry was having a revolution and I was becoming a person at the same time.' Jason, 25, grew up in Woodmere, a middleclass suburb of Long Island, New York. His parents, fans of Broadway, began taking Jason to shows almost as soon as he could walk, and very early on a passion for music was manifest. These excursions would also prove to be the beginning of a lifelong tryst with New York City. But it was not until age nine, when Liebman saw the movie, 'La Bamba,' the story of legendary 50's guitar slinger, Ritchie Valens, that he first got the rock and roll bug. Immediately drawn into the fantastic on-screen world of rock n' roll mystique and electric guitars, he knew he needed a six string and began begging his parents for lessons. They acquiesced; however, a rock reality was still a few years off: 'I ended up studying classical because, for lack of a better way of putting it, I didn't know any better. My parents bought me a classical guitar and signed me up at this local music school which gave lessons a few times a week.' Jason spent six years studying at The Stecher and Horowitz Music School, a conservatory named for and run by the world-renowned classical piano duo of the same name, and was performing Mozart in guitar quartets and symphonies by age eleven. Still, the ever-present specter of Ritchie Valens loomed large. With alternative as an early model, rebellion and spirit became indelibly linked to Liebman's concept of music. The diligence and proficiency he had developed at Stecher and Horowitz were transformed into obsession and a ravenous appetite for new, incendiary avenues and alleyways of music. At age 16, Liebman formed his first original band. They would play 3 shows, one being an ill-fated school-sponsored performance that faculty halted when mosh pits erupted at the foot of the stage during a cover of the Ramones' 'I Wanna Be Sedated.' 'I went to Hewlett High School and part of me did feel like an outsider there in the sense that I was heavily into music which wasn't in the mainstream at the time. I was really starting to define myself by the bands I was in and the kinds of music I was into.' In 1995, Jason left the NYC landscape to attend university out of state, where he continued his formal musical training, delving into jazz chord/scale theory and voice classes. He also led an original band for the first time, fronting the local underground rock band, Windigo. Windigo marked another first for Liebman: the opportunity to develop his song ideas in a unit built around his guitar and voice. By his junior year, the prolific songwriter had branched out to solo acoustic shows, garnering rave reviews. At the same time his own music was flourishing, Liebman was growing disenchanted with an increasingly vapid collegiate music scene. After graduation, resolved to do things his way, he headed home to NYC, heeding the call of homespun heroes like the Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan, and Patti Smith. But just as it seemed he was on the verge of finding his own voice, Jason was silenced. At age 23, Liebman developed serious vocal chord problems that necessitated surgery, calling his life-long pursuit into question. Intent on being able to sing again, the singer worked unceasingly with speech pathologists and voice coaches. Arduous conditioning and therapy reinforced his resolve and ultimately helped him discover a voice more explosively powerful than ever before. The force of Liebman's singing is never more apparent than on the first single from The Driest Of All Seasons, 'Crystal.' Straining gloriously above roaring waves of cresting melody, bubbling guitar harmonics and tidal percussion, Liebman's conflicted take on a sink or swim relationship rings with a modern clarity befitting it's name. In fact, Liebman is at his best when he is at the edge of his octave-leaping vocal range, daring the other instruments to keep up. Throughout The Driest Of All Seasons, Liebman's songs and voice, a balanced falsetto paved with just the right amount of asphalt, convey an aching that is both reaffirming and familiar. Drawing on his classical training, even the most straight-ahead rockers, including the live favorite, 'Where Have All My Friends Gone,' benefit from unorthodox arrangements, colorful rhythms and a heavy pallet of styles and genres. Lyrically, Liebman generally trades the soapbox for the confessional, leaving the door open a crack for listeners to overhear as he comes clean to himself. 'I don't want to preside over my audience as much as I want to connect with them. All I ask of a listener is that they be looking for something of value to listen to. I want to make a connection with people the same way the musicians, icons and heroes whose music I formed a connection with did for me.' As much a part of a downtown bohemian past as it's future, the packed houses at Jason Liebman shows nevertheless prove one thing: despite the current dominance of consumptive corporate pop-rockers, wizened poetics and unconventional interpretation can still be mixed with an irrepressible and infectious rebel spirit to make pertinent music for a mass audience. It's why Jason Liebman will continue to write and perform even if no one is listening: 'I don't define the aesthetic of my own music nor do I want to define in a term or two what it is I'm offering. Whether it's uplifting for some, a nocturne for another or even political and punk, I just want people who do find my music to be looking for it as much as I'm looking for them...that way, I'll know the bond between us is real, we're in it together and it's about the music.'
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