“Early in saxophone and flute player Paul Lieberman’s career, Gil Evans observed to Airto Moreira during a session at Mickey Hart’s, “everything he plays sounds right.” And David Sanborn responded to a NY performance with a surprise kiss.
After earning his BA at Yale, Paul responded to simultaneous tour invitations from drummer/big band leader Buddy Rich and Brazilian Jazz legends Airto and Flora Purim by becoming the only “gringo” in the latter, all-Brazilian group. He toured the US with them for the next two years, appearing at major clubs, theaters, and festivals, performing for audiences of up to 30,000, and making his Lincoln Center debut.
He then moved to Rio de Janeiro for four years, where he became Brazil’s first-call studio saxophone and flute player, recording on over 50 albums and doing arranging and producing work for CBS, Warner, and other labels. He married Zaida, his Brazilian wife of 38 years, and became so thoroughly assimilated into the language and culture of Brazil that he was routinely presumed a native.
Paul has performed and/or recorded with Pat Metheny, George Benson, David Sanborn, Jaco Pastorius, The Allman Brothers Band, Mickey Hart, Taj Mahal, Rufus Reid, Jaki Byard, David “Fathead” Newman, Bernard Purdy, Lew Soloff, Jimmy Heath, Paquito D’Rivera, Ronnie Foster, Claudio Roditi, Dick Oatts, Conrad Herwig, Brian Lynch, Jon Faddis, Wayne Bergeron, Arturo O’Farrill, Dave Samuels, Orlando “Maraca” Valle, Bobby Sanabria, The Temptations, Martha and the Vandellas, BJ Thomas, and David Byrne, as well as Brazilian stars such as Simone, Chico Buarque, Djavan, Milton Nascimento, Toninho Horta, Alcione, Joao Bosco, Leny Andrade, Miucha, and Roberto Carlos, along with a veritable Who’s Who of Brazil’s top instrumental artists, including Hermeto Pascoal, Cesar Camargo Mariano, and many others.
Paul’s critically acclaimed 2011 CD “Ibeji” reached multiple best of the year lists, garnered nominations for Latin Jazz Flutist of the Year & Brazilian Jazz Album of the Year, and a win in the John Lennon International Songwriting Competition. The CD looks at Brazilian music and American Jazz as twin children of Mother Africa—separated at birth, raised in distant parts of the world, and now reunited—to explore the ways they are similar because they are twins and the ways they are different because of where they grew up. The CD features stellar support from Rufus Reid & Nilson Matta on bass, Duduka da Fonseca, Tim Horner, and Allman Brothers co-founder Jaimoe on drums, Joel Martin on piano, and Eugene Friesen on cello.
Reviewers say:
“Lieberman [who] is a soulful player on any instrument, conveying deep emotional content…demonstrates his instrumental mastery and also reveals himself as a formidable composer” in this “stunning, heartfelt, and emotional” recording. With “high musicianship displayed with emotion, laid bare,” the “sparkling originals” and “fascinating” arrangements “enchant” and “celebrate life to its fullest” in this “beguiling mix.” “Blessed with two cracker-jack rhythm sections,” the “oh-so-sweet” CD “shines” with “‘soul’ music through and through” that “combines technique, intelligence, experience, emotions, and risk-taking that pushes the musician beyond the ordinary or the commonplace.” With “one of the best covers of a Beatles tune by a jazz player, a beat that floats on every track…pervasive ensemble joie de vivre” and an original that “sent chills up my spine,” “Ibeji is a hell of an accomplishment… and displays, quite brilliantly, the commonalities of these music heritages.”
Similarly with his clinics:
“Paul Lieberman’s clinic proved to be a highlight of the 2012 Syracuse Jazz Fest Education Program. Drawing on his experience in music education, Paul was able to get right down to the level of the students in the audience and deliver meaningful, relevant, and eminently useable information designed to improve their understanding and performance of America’s music, jazz. For over an hour, he held the students in rapt attention as he both challenged and motivated them on their journey toward becoming better musicians. It was a thrill for me to see the student’s reactions: many told me afterward that they were truly inspired and “charged up” by Paul’s presentation. My only regret is that we only had an hour to give him!”
Other career highlights to date:
• Performance in an All-Star tribute band at NJPAC’s James Moody Democracy of Jazz Festival alongside George Benson, The Manhattan Transfer, Jimmy Heath, Kenny Barron, Paquito D’Rivera, and Jon Faddis
• A commission from Yale University for big-band arrangements of music from “Ibeji” to perform as a guest artist
• A two-week concert tour by the Paul Lieberman Quartet of the Czech Republic
• Headlining the Chapada in Jazz Festival in Brazil following two days of university master class and performance
• Saxophone quartet co-founded with Gary Smulyan, Marty Ehrlich, and Jason Robinson
• Touring with The Gregg Allman Band
• Touring for ten years with Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band in the US and Europe, including several years as Music Director.
• Recording on Ali Ryerson’s Jazz Flute Big Band album as soloist alongside Hubert Laws and other foremost jazz flutists
• Appearances at New York’s Symphony Space as a featured soloist with Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra
• A week of educational performances at Carnegie Hall
• Commission and performance of a dance piece for Central Connecticut State University
• Performances with the Springfield Symphony
• Creation of wind/percussion music for worldwide performances by the Young@Heart Chorus
• Clinician appearances at the Syracuse Jazz Fest and the St. Lawrence County Music Educators Association and receipt of various grants.
• A ten-day solo professional development trip to Cuba to study Afro-Cuban history and music
• Latin music and Brazilian Jazz performances in Cuba and Portugal
• Recording on Orlando “Maraca” Valle’s “Flautas Gigantes” CD, which won the 2024 Cubadisco Award for Best Jazz Instrument Album
Paul is a D’Addario Performing Artist, a Gemeinhardt Woodwind Artist, and a JodyJazz Artist, and has made clinic/masterclass/guest artist/guest lecturer/visiting artist residency appearances at the Syracuse Jazz Fest, the St. Lawrence County Music Educators Association, Yale University, Northeastern University, Boston University, Wheaton College, and the Federal University of São João del Rei, and is a guest lecturer for Primary Source, Inc.
He is also the founder and co-director of Voyages on the Black Atlantic, a grant-funded educational initiative that uses the music of Mardi Gras, Brazilian Carnaval, and the Caribbean to offer students global, historical, and sociological perspectives on the African roots of the music and cultures of the New World.
Paul spent four years on the UMass Amherst jazz faculty, where he earned his MM in Jazz Composition and Arranging, and is now on the faculty at the Noble & Greenough School in Dedham, Mass. After being evaluated as, among other things, “incredibly thoughtful, compassionate and brilliant, disarming, accessible, engaged, interesting, funny, supportive, collaborative, calm and cool,” he was named the school’s Artist in Residence. As such, in addition to directing wind ensembles and jazz bands, Paul curates performances featuring outside professional talent and does cross-curricular teaching regarding cultural aspects of the African Diaspora in the Americas. He continues to perform around the world as a leader and sideman.
Wind Ensemble conducting has become the newest growing edge in Paul’s career, and as a result of his fascination with its challenges and possibilities, he has studied privately in addition to attending conducting symposia at West Chester University in Pennsylvania and the New England Conservatory.”