No Train - the title a reference to a Rauschenberg quote ("Los Angeles is a city built around a train and the train never came") - is something of a 9 Winds special. Saxophonist Golia runs the label, and both Liebig and Mintz have close associations: the former's Quartetto Stig group has three 9 Winds discs, and Mintz is pretty much the label's in-house drummer, having appeared on several releases. Liebig is credited as playing contrabass guitars, which basically function exactly like a bass, making this a pretty standard free jazz trio. He and Mintz play inobtrusively, almost surreptitiously, allowing Golia - on curved soprano and baritone saxes, plenty of room to play away to his heart's content. Which he does: at times not entirely unreminiscent of Evan Parker's more "jazz"-like playing on tenor, Golia rolls out lines of richly sonorous, densely melodic, pure streaming notes, in wonderfully extended style, over the course of six lengthy improvisations. Luxurious.
(Nick Cain, opprobrium/online )
Southern California bassist Liebig's extraordinary musical range is evident in a discography that includes four mid-'70s albums with Les McCann, a 1983 recording with Julius Hemphill, and his '90s recordings with such southland avant-gardeners as Vinny Golia, The G.E. Stinson Group, Duck See Goose, John Fumo, and Nels Cline, in addition to his own groups Quartetto Stig, Stigtette and Idiot Sauvage (ed: now Beutet). Drawn toward composing for chamber-type ensembles as well as to free improvising, Liebig busily works over his electric contrabass in instrumental contexts that include everything from saxophones, trombones, clarinets, and flutes to electric guitar and chromatic harmonica. In his Beanbender's debut, he performs with multireed virtuoso Golia and Mintz, with whom he has recorded a beautifully frenetic trio CD, "No Train," forthcoming on the Cadence Jazz label.
(Dirk Richardson, East Bay Express, 10 July, 1998)
Bassist Steuart Liebig, an accomplished player who specializes in the electric six-string bass, has been circulating on the inspired, avant-jazz fringes of the Los Angeles music scene for years. He often shows up as part of the rotating crop of ensembles in the "New Music Mondays" series, now held at Luna Park in West Hollywood Among other projects, he has led his own group, Quartetto Stig, and put out three CDs on the Nine Winds label with that group.
When he shows up in the. atmospheric quarters of Art City 2 gallery this Saturday night, it will be with two other mainstays of L.A.'s adventurous music world - - the influential multi-reed player Vinny Golia and drummer Billy Mintz, one of the most interesting and free-spirited drummers on the West Coast.
As heard on a sampler of tracks from an upcoming CD, "No Train," the trio leans toward improvisation, with compositional guideposts sometimes provided by Liebig.
Between Liebig's full palette of single lines, rumbling intervals and manually achieved sonic effects, Golia's powerhouse sound and Mintz's minimalist pulses, the spacious but intense music asserts its own kind of dark, muted charm. It's related to jazz, but heads off in a direction not easily put into words or categories.
(Josef Woodard, Los Angeles Times Ventura County Edition, 16 July, 1998)
An excursion into the land of endless melody. Liebig composed the "trioism" sections; he sets their tones and weaves serpentine dances with Golia. The reedman sounds more insouciant and exuberant than on his recent 9Winds release Lineage, which was recorded almost a year after this one. His swashbuckling baritone gets ample space to stretch out here, especially on the twenty-one minute opening Improvisation #1/Trioism #11. He generally keeps a steady level of tension and simply roll son like a mighty river, moving swiftly here, catching on a repetitive motif there and spinning it out for a while. Liebig has a dry, definite tone and builds doggedly to a peak on an effective solo on Trioism #4, preparing the way for Golia to reenter at the upper range of his baritone, exploring long tones. This broadly atmospheric track is one of the most successful on the disc; Mintz and Liebig keep it moving inexorably as Mintz simultaneously adds choice and perfect coloristic effects.
On the curved soprano on the gossamer Trioism #7, Golia sounds plaintive, less definite than he does on baritone - - not in his assured command of the instrument, which is firm on soprano as on any in his arsenal - - but in the moods he creates (in harmony with Liebig's dry yet deeply emotional bass, bowed for the opening moments). The improvised tracks, especially the tight Improvisation #2, sound hardly less well constructed than the prearranged compositions - - a tribute to the considerable abilities of each member of this trio. A provocative, well-constructed consistently interesting recording. Recommended, of course!
(Robert Spencer, Cadence, March 1998)
Who would expect to find a legitimate avant-garde scene brewing in Los Angeles? After all, Los Angeles is a city based upon Tinseltown's glitz and glamour and free jazz is definitely not swank. There is no real sex appeal to complex improvisations and free formed compositions. But amid the palm trees and Southern California sun, improvisers like Vinny Golia, Wadada Leo Smith, and Alex Cline have found avenues to present their art. Golia, whose 9Winds label has been releasing free jazz albums for the past two decades, plays both curved soprano and baritone saxophones with fellow Angelenos, Steuart Liebig on bass and Billy Mintz on drums.
No Train is an album composed of six extended improvisations from the trio. Interesting moments include an emotional "Improvisation #1/Trioism #11," presenting multi-instrumentalist Golia on the baritone saxophone blowing a torrential downpour of notes and an audio menage-a-trois of furious solos entitled "Trioism #4."
Be a part of Los Angeles's growing avant-garde scene and buy or borrow a copy of No Train.
(www.jazzusa.com/stories/jungonjazz may 1999)
Meanwhile, out on the fringes of town at Art City 2, a very different kind of musical heat was being generated as part of the New Music concert series presented by Jeff Kaiser. This time out, the stage belonged to the improvisational power trio of electric bassist Steuart Liebig, reed player Vinny Golia and drummer Billy Mintz - - all Los Angeles-based players of no small reputation on the fringe jazz scene.
The Art City 2 Gallery is a fine space for music as well as art, and, fortunately, has of late been pressed more often into service for performances. With its open-raftered space and corrugated metal roof, it looks like a combination farm building and art outpost, an embodiment of the overused term "alternative," in its original meaning. It was an ideal locale for a night of poetic blowing.
This trio, with no chordal instrument in sight, puts out a full, varied sound. In the suite-like 75-minute piece in the concert's first half, propulsion and density were never lacking, thanks to the general ferocity of Golia's approach and the thick low-end textures from Liebig. Mintz feels no compulsion to add to the tumult, instead offering utterances from the sidelines.
Golia brought along a handful of instruments from his famous collection, including the bizarre new straight tenor saxophone (ed. note: the Stritch, a straight alto saxophone), a baritone sax, a soprano sax and a bass clarinet. Long a pillar among adventurous L.A. reedists, Golia seems to have bumped up to new level of focused energy in the last few years, and he showed some of that fiery, no-holds-barred stuff here.
For his part, Liebig took advantage of the fluidity of his fretless six-string bass, and also managed to avoid an artistic debt to that oft-imitated master of the instrument, the late Jaco Pastorious.
Much of the music was abstract and challenging, but it surfed the range of expressions. In one notably tender, ethereal passage, Liebig had picked up his fretted six-string bass and produced ringing harmonics, swelling tones (courtesy of a volume pedal) and undulating loops with a delay unit. Golia laid out well-placed long tones on his bass clarinet, while Mintz issued a subtle array of sounds with mallets. It all added up to a lustrous textural palette.
Most important, the trio made music together, a simple but not always easy goal. It's a philosophical bottom line in improvisation-based music. It was a hot time on the outer limits of old town.
(Josef Woodard, Los Angeles Times Ventura County Edition, 23 July, 1998)
This is a change of pace for West Coast musician Steuart Liebig, who is joined here by saxophonist Vinny Golia and drummer Billy Mintz for a mix of Liebig compositions and thoroughly improvised numbers. Liebig leaves his violin at home, instead focusing on contrabass guitars, while Golia muscles his way on baritone and soprano saxophones. The composed pieces are loose constructs, even that a different course from the leader's earlier penchant for densely layered colors. If the session has a bit of the feel of a blowing session, the spontaneity and combustible intensity of Golia's remarkable and often lengthy solos (particularly on bari, where he is mostly featured) never tire; the ideas flow endlessly from his horns without pause. Well recorded and clocking in at more than 70 minutes, this is a valuable addition to both Liebig's and Golia's discographies.
(Steve Loewy, www.getmusic.com)