Lingua Oscura






(French) Il se dégage une sonorité particulière de la musique de Steuart Liebig, due peut-être à l'instrumentation inhabituelle de ce quartet: outre le leader à la basse électrique et Jeff Gauthier que l'on retrouve au violon, John Fumo est à la trompette et Jeff McCutchen à la batterie. Les compositions de S. Liebig très élaborées donnent lieu à de savants dialogues entre le violiniste et le trompettiste. Le batteur et le bassiste assurent un soutien rythmique tout en délicatesse et nuances. Un séduisant jazz de chambre en quelque sorte.

[A personal sort of sonority appears in the music of Steuart Liebig due perhaps to the unusual instrumentation of this quartet: besides the leader on electric bass and Jeff Gauthier (who is remet) on the violin, John Fumo is on trumpet and Jeff McCutchen on drums. The very elaborate compositions of S. Liebig give place for knowing dialogues between the violin and trumpet. The drummer and bassist insure rhythmic support that is always delicate and nuanced. An enticing chamber jazz of a certain sort. ]

(Martial Petit, Improjazz; July-August 1995)


Forget the End-of-Year Laundry List - - Check Out the Latest from L.A. Artists

Steuart Liebig, Lingua Oscura: The electric bassist's pieces veer from lyrical pairings between Jeff Gauthier's violin and John Fumo's trumpet, to spacy, no-time sound landscapes, to funk grooves. Liebig is equally at home charting lunar terrain as he is in the pocket, and Fumo's controlled brass renderings are a model of creative tension.

(Kirk Silsbee, L.A. Reader; 15 December 1995)


Electric bassist Steuart Liebig's unusual Quartetto Stig, with John Fumo trumpet, flügelhorn, cornet; Jeff Gauthier   violin; and Dan Morris drums, offers a wide range of. moods on "Lingua Oscura." The controlled avant-garde nature of the music seems to stem from careful arranging.

(Will Smith, Sunday World Herald [Omaha]; 11 February 1996)


Scoring the Clubs

Another can't-go-wrong improvimental bill at the Alligator. First up is Quartetto Stig, featuring the perfectly balanced hyperconscious composed/improvised interwork of bassist Steuart Liebig, violinist Jeff Gauthier, trumpeter John Fumo and drummer Dan Morris. Their second 9Winds recording, Lingua Oscura, is current and somewhat available; those lacking it may miss the opening of the wormhole and risk getting stuck on Deep Shit 9 forever.

(Greg Burk, L.A. Weekly; 5 April 1996)


Bassist Steuart Liebig leads his ethereal and powerful Quartetto Stig on Monday at the Alligator Lounge.

(Kirk Silsbee, L.A. Reader; 5 April 1996)


Steuart Liebig/Lingua Oscura

If you were so credulous as to accept the pontifications of the Armani-suited crowd and its promoters in the media, you'd be convinced that any musical descent from the avant-gardes of the '50s and '60s had long since died out, and that young musicians everywhere are united in their fervent reproductions of hard-bop and modal sounds. Of course, as a reader of Cadence you already know better. But if you more empirical evidence against premature obituaries were actually needed, these two CDs provide it.

Out in Minneapolis, Scott Fultz and his colleagues have chosen as their point of departure Dewey Redman's chamber ensembles, or (when that cello-bass attack gets to plucking) Henry Threadgill in his more depressive moods. This is a tight ensemble, one in which the other instruments (though they do get occasional solos) are mostly busy interweaving in support of the tenor sax. Fultz has the Redman manner down (check out "Semi-Famous," for instance, where Dewey seems to have reached into the portfolio and found still another unrecorded Ornette composition. Fultz still has a little distance to travel before he finds a voice of his own, and it would help if the days weren't so relentlessly overcast; maybe fewer unisons between the tenor and cello would help? After all, even on those dark Impulse recordings, Dewey was still capable of down-home relief in the form of "Boody," and Threadgill is responsible for "Untitled Tango" as well as "Soft Suicide at the Baths." The recording is sorta gray and fuzzy around the edges, which seems just right for the music. Check it out.

Steuart Liebig has been around longer. He's part of the same Southern California scene as Vinny Golia and Nels and Alex Cline; under the less contracted moniker Steubig, he was a member of Julius Hemphill's JAH band. I cheated in the headline when I listed his instrument as electric bass; he actually declares himself an adept of various "ContraBassguitars." I'm not sure what those are; I keep having visions of something with a four-foot-long neck that you have to stand on a step-ladder to play. More likely he's using an electric bass with an extra string on the low side, or switching back and forth between one of those and an electric stand-up job. Whatever his axe may be, he can coax supportive chords and quiet harmonics from it, making it function in the implausible role of a chamber instrument. On the uptempo numbers, Liebig's contribution is more conventional, occasionally bordering on the funky.

In any case, he's not one of the hot dogs of the instrument, and his music is a thoroughly cooperative enterprise. John Fumo used to be Vinny Golia's trumpet of choice, before he was elbowed aside by Rob Blakeslee; it's good to hear from him again. He can be crisply boppish ("Your Name Here") or infused with duende ("Nef"). Jeff Gauthier is mobile and affecting. Dan Morris I haven't heard before; he's called on to show a light touch on the trap set, and to exhibit near-classical percussion technique.

The disk has what looks like an Albrecht Dürer woodcut on it, and the front cover displays a dense India-ink drawing. The music has comparable qualities (though it isn't always so dense). Perhaps my favorite piece is the "Pielke Duinegies" (the title is presumably a scrambled allusion to some famous German poetry), which are gently supported by high chiming from Liebig. In all, this is an interesting addition to the Nine Winds list.

(Robert L. Campbell, Cadence; June 1996)


Somewhat like Blue Note or ESP, 9Winds' bands sustain an identifiable sound but without imposition. No exception is this delightful and lengthy CD led by Steuart Liebig. His quartet features violins, trumpet-cornet-flügelhorn, drums and Liebig on "ContraBassguitars." Searing performances are not their preference but they have no trouble projecting low-banking flames, creating highly versatile textures - - a violin sometimes sounds reedlike with the brass drums doubling glockenspiel, the brass harmon-muted, and the ContraBassguitars, sounding like the Spanish basso, an acoustic instrument. This band (the CD title and the band's name are a bit confusing) searches realms of mood, meditative as on "Ohne Name" but more often quixotic as on "Ten Pielke Duinegies For." "Unusual" is a superficial way to describe this CD - - I'd say a sound whose time has come.

(Ron Welburn, JazzTimes; November 1996)


Scoring the Clubs

No armistice with this mustering - - glorious experimental campaign in full-on engagement. Percussionist Gregg Bendian: 120 degrees of Cecil Taylor's pointed In Florescence triangle calls up local auxiliaries Bertram Turetsky, Alex Cline and Nels Cline to complement his vibraphone on his own compositions. Quartetto Stig: superb celestial receptors Steuart Liebig, John Fumo, Jeff Gauthier and Dan Morris launch the most involving inner journey you'll ever take; be blown away and then acquire their Lingua Oscura (9Winds) as a memoir. Alex Cline/Peter Erskine: each percussionist wafts through the beaded curtain of the tabernacle on his own extraordinary current trio release - - Cline (with G.E. Stinson and Gauthier) on Right of Violet (9Winds), Erskine (with John Taylor and Palle Danielsson) on As It Is (ECM) tonight they perform in duo. Check. Check. Check.Over the top boys.

(Greg Burk, L.A. Weekly; 7 November 1996)



Steuart Liebig/Quartetto Stig: Lingua Oscura

Here's a cool, unique CD of avant-garde contemporary works à la the Kronos Quartet, led by bass guitarist Liebig. Other instruments: Electric Violin, trumpet, and drums.

(Karl Coryat, Bass Player Magazine; January 1997)


AMG EXPERT REVIEW: Leading his Quartetto Stig, contra bass guitarist Liebig employs a variety of jazz-based motifs within a framework that is mainly improvised. Violinist Jeff Gauthier and trumpeter John Fumo add a stratospheric melodiousness, while drummer Dan Morris proves infinitely adept at shading with rhythm. The group plays collectively throughout, and though there are solos, counterpoint and shared impressions dominate these 12 pieces, all written by Liebig. From the dour "Nef" and "Coda" to the chamber-like pieces "Una Senal de Soledad" and "Ten Pielke Duningies For," the music cries, sighs, and pines. The 15-minute "Terribilia Meditans" is a rather unsettling piece that acts as a collective improv. The Quartetto emphasizes clipped staccato phrases and a Mediterranean theme on "Plums and Apricots Falling From the Sky," and goes heavy on the very short "Exploded Sky." A minimalist bass line breeds gliding violin and soaring trumpet on "Other Name," and "A Rose Is Eros" contains a pure melody wrapped in a suggested tango rhythm. "Liquid Speedball" is an anxious and nervous full-bore bop with lots of interplay between trumpet and violin. "Seed" is less communal, with instruments partitioned between bar lines, while "Coda" is a distinct prayer, and the closer to this stunning side of creative music. Liebig's bass sound is as deep and full as any you'll hear. This West Coast group gives the downtown NYC {Knitting Factory} bands -- as well as Orange Then Blue, Brad Shepik & the Commuters, and the like -- a good run for their money.

(Michael G. Nastos,




If you want to read my notes on this album, click here.