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David Liebman papers and sound recordings, 1912-2019

Identifier: BCA-041

Scope and Contents

The personal papers of American saxophonist and educator David Liebman (1946-). Liebman's papers include published and unpublished compositions and arrangements, recordings of live performances and interviews, ephemera from his successful music career, subject files, and teaching materials. Audiovisual formats include cassette tapes, CDs, DVDs, and LPs, as well as digital files on external disk storage. Liebman's personal book collection is available in the Stan Getz Library; a list of books is available to view in the Archives. Gaps in the collection include Liebman's personal life and material prior to the early 1970s. The Berklee Archives expects future additions to the collection and will update the finding aid as they are received and processed.


  • Creation: 1912-2019
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1955 - 2018


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research by appointment. Advance notice is required for access because materials are stored offsite. Audiovisual recordings on analog and optical media have not been transferred. Patrons may view an item’s original container and/or carrier, but the original recordings are not available for playback due to preservation concerns. Patrons may request access to viewing/listening copies via onsite appointment, however recordings on obsolete formats may not be available. Contact Archives staff for further information.

Biographical / Historical

Jazz saxophonist, educator, and NEA Jazz Master David Liebman was born in Brooklyn, New York, on September 4, 1946. After beginning piano lessons at the age of nine, followed by clarinet and saxophone lessons at twelve, he pursued an interest in jazz as a young adult by studying under Joe Allard, Lennie Tristano, and Charles Lloyd. Though he earned a degree in American History from New York University, Liebman soon decided to dedicate himself to jazz.

An important member of New York’s jazz “loft” scene in the 1970s, Liebman provided an organizational structure for the scene by founding Free Life Communication, a collective of musicians that produced shows in New York for aspiring jazz artists.

As a professional musician, Liebman played with Ten Wheel Drive, an early jazz fusion group, in the late 1960s. From 1970 to 1974, he played in Elvin Jones and Miles Davis’ bands. Around the same time, Liebman began venturing out into creating his own music and forming his own groups. Liebman has continued to perform and record with self-led bands such as Open Sky Trio, Lookout Farm, Quest, and Expansions since the 1970s. Liebman has been featured on over 500 recordings, composed hundreds of works, and is the subject of the biography What It Is—The Life of a Jazz Artist (2012).

In addition to performing and recording, Liebman is passionate about jazz education. He is in demand around the world as a respected instructor, and he is the Artistic Director and Founder of the International Association of Schools of Jazz (IASJ; IASJ seeks to promote collaboration between jazz schools through establishing and growing the network of schools of jazz worldwide.


58.5 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials



The personal papers of American saxophonist, educator, and NEA Jazz Master David Liebman (1946-). Liebman's papers include published and unpublished compositions and arrangements, over two thousand individual audiovisual recordings, posters, clippings, photographs, and other memorabilia from Liebman’s fifty-year career.


The David Liebman papers and sound recordings are arranged in four series: Scores and Charts, Personal Memorabilia, Audiovisual Materials, and the David Liebman Personal Collection.

Series 1: Scores and Charts This series contains sheet music for pieces that were composed or arranged by David Liebman. The Scores and Charts series is arranged alphabetically by title of piece. Scores and charts that were not composed by Liebman can be found in Series 4, the David Liebman Personal Collection.

Series 2: Personal Memorabilia

This series contains memorabilia from Liebman's career. Items include newspaper clippings, photos, t-shirt fragments, and programs. Of particular note are the meeting minutes from Free Life Communication, the musician's cooperative founded by Liebman. This series contains a subseries of oversize posters from Liebman's performances. This series is arranged chronologically in order to provide a timeline of Liebman's career.

Series 3: Audiovisual Materials

This series contains commercially available Liebman recordings, recordings of live gigs, and music from Liebman's personal collection. Formats in this series include audiocassette, CD, DVD, VHS, vinyl records, and DAT, as well as born-digital files on an external hard disk. The Audiovisual Materials series is arranged chronologically as to reflect Liebman's career trajectory.

Series 4: David Liebman Personal Collection

This series contains materials that make up David Liebman's personal music library and subject files, and cover his personal tastes, research interests, and artists and topics he was/is influenced and inspired by. The series is divided into three subseries, Scores and Charts, Audiovisual Materials, and Subject Files. The Scores and Charts subseries is arranged alphabetically by title. The Audiovisual Materials subseries is arranged chronologically; similar to Series 3, the Audiovisual Materials subseries includes audiocassettes, CDs, DVDs, VHS, vinyl records, and DATs. The Subject Files subseries is arranged alphabetically by subject.

David Liebman papers and sound recordings, 1912-2019
Amanda Axel (2018); revisions by Ashley Gray (2020)
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Primarily in English with some publications in other languages such as Japanese and French.
Edition statement
2nd edition

Repository Details

Part of the Berklee Archives Repository

Berklee College of Music
1140 Boylston St
Boston MA 02215 USA