On David Liebman's trips to Europe, as with many of his gigs in the U.S., he chooses to play with so-called "pickup" bands. In Italy, one of his favorite and most skilled combos features drummer Tony Arco, bassist Paolo Benedettini, and pianist Roberto Tarenzi, a trio more than capable of knowing Liebman's tendencies, having played with him on numerous occasions overseas. As a result, they play Liebman's original music and standards favored by all four participants, done with no filler, some hefty solos, and a wonderful sense of the teamwork expected from a seasoned ensemble. These performances are culled from club dates in Florence, Bari, and Lamezia Terme, full of the fire and passion that Liebman's playing on tenor or soprano sax is known for. A tribute to George and Ira Gershwin, "G.I.G.," does not refer to any specific show tune, but does quote bop and John Coltrane-type phrases in a short melody -- an easy swinger with Tarenzi's delightful, deft modal piano chords clearly ringing out. There's no derogatory inference to "Negative Space," but instead it's an aural depiction of an aura -- the surrounding space of a solid object, or a person. A circle-the-wagons semi-melody in a delicate bossa beat, it features Liebman's acclaimed soprano sax in spatial and engaged dialog, intensifying in his personalized, familiar, overblown manner. The standards "Poinciana" and "Afro Blue" have been done to death, but the quartet adds to both of them, the former with the contemporary swaying beat that eventually informed hip-hop, well in command and displaying Liebman's prettiest tenor sound, while the latter is a true jam on the famous Mongo Santamaria number popularized by Coltrane, a staple in Liebman's repertoire for decades, done straightforwardly and faithfully on soprano sax with a ton of compassion, aptitude, and a huge bass solo from Benedettini. Arco is an impressive drummer, with all the chops, mastery of rhythm changes, and inventiveness at hand, while Tarenzi is as impressive a European jazz pianist as you might find if you listen closely to his clever voicings and truly original comping behind Liebman. Of course, his own solo excursions as an improviser, especially during "Get Me Back to the Apple," are nothing short of marvelous. More from this quartet, or a recording with just the trio, would be welcome. Frankly, this is a surprisingly progressive offering from the usually conservative Verve Records, hopefully not the only state-of-the-art jazz date they issue in the future. Furthermore, this would be a great group to hear stateside.