It’s probably not very often that kids cut class so they can attend another. Then again, famous jazz musicians don’t visit your high school every day.
“I know they’re ditching class to be here,” band teacher Keith Oxman laughed. “I’m thinking, ‘yeah, you don’t have music this period. You’re supposed to be somewhere else.’”
Oxman said he couldn’t condone the ditching, but he certainly understood it. On Monday, jazz saxophonist Dave Liebman visited Denver East High School. Liebman played with masters Miles Davis, Elvin Jones, Chick Corea and others during his career spanning nearly five decades.
“He’s been a hero of mine since junior high school,” Oxman said.
Oxman reached out to Liebman and asked if he’d be willing to meet and perform for students at East High School. Liebman took him up on the offer.
“For the future,” Liebman said. “Like everything, you know. If you don’t get the kids, you’re done.”
Liebman teaches at the Manhattan School of Music and regularly visits universities and music conservatories. He doesn’t often make stops at high schools, but was impressed with the program at East High.
“You don’t see 16, 17-year-old kids these days listening to jazz,” Liebman said.
Senior Luis Murillo certainly listens to jazz and plays it, too. He’s been playing the electric bass for about five years and recently picked up the stand-up bass.
“I like how [jazz is] all structured, but at the same time the improvisation gives you that freedom of like moving however you want,” Murillo said.
Murillo was one of a lucky few students who took the stage with Dave Liebman Monday afternoon.
“I gotta say, it was an experience,” Murillo said. “As soon as I stepped on stage, it was that moment of, ‘oh God I’m playing with Liebman, what do I do?’”
Murillo held his own and even earned a compliment from Liebman.
“He congratulated me,” Murillo said. “Said ‘great job’ to me and Malik, the drummer.”
Dave Liebman played for several different classes Monday. On Thursday night, Liebman will perform with East High School’s Keith Oxman and the Keith Oxman Quartet at Dazzle in Denver.