Sunday, 5 August 2007

Lee Konitz...

Following on from the Wayne Shorter post below, I thought I'd set off on a little Lee Konitz theme and see how far it goes.

I'm a great admirer of Konitz, but not exactly a fan of his music. I rarely listen to it despite, I think, fully realising its importance. This review goes some way to summing up my equivocation about Konitz.

Perhaps that's something I can debate with Andy in the car on the way to the Shorter gig tonight, although I won't push it too hard in case I have to walk home. An extract from his book is printed at my fellow Jazz Review contributor Bill Shoemaker's worthy Point of Departure website. As ever, Konitz has lots of interesting things to say...

More Live-Lee

Invitation; Body & Soul; Thingin’; You Stepped Out Of A Dream; Nothin’; I Can’t Get Started; Lennie’s; How Deep Is The Ocean?; You Go To My Head; Bending Broadly; Just Friends.

Lee Konitz (as); Alan Broadbent (p).
Recorded October 2000

The suitable-lee punning title of this disc contains a hint that it’s a follow up to the earlier ‘Live-Lee’, also released by Milestone. Recorded in October 2000 at The Jazz Bakery in Los Angeles by top engineer Phil Edwards, there’s no suggestion that the performances here are leftovers that failed to make the cut first time around.

Konitz’s partner in this small and intimate venue is pianist Alan Broadbent, in many ways the ideal accompanist for the saxophonist, and he safeguards each piece’s internal architecture by anchoring the leader’s oblique melodic twists and tendency to float. ‘Body & Soul’, for example, would be scarcely recognisable were it not for the harmonic traces Broadbent leaves behind. That he also studied with Lennie Tristano in the late 1960s makes this musical marriage even more felicitous.

Bill Kirchner’s perceptive sleeve notes compare the saxophonist’s approach to that of a jazz singer, rolling from note-to-note and taking liberties with melody, whilst always keeping the core material just within view. Despite the familiarity of much of the material, the sensation of hearing something freshly created in the moment is present throughout the disc’s near 70 minute duration.

‘Thingin’’ is of course based on ‘All The Things You Are’, whilst ‘Lennie’s’ is a minor key variation of ‘Lennie’s Pennies’. ‘Nothin’’ is a freely improvised saxophone solo, but as with most of Konitz’s forays into this terrain, the end product is logical and carefully calculated. Broadbent gets his own solo spot with ‘You Go To My Head’, reminding us that as well as Tristano, Bud Powell and Bill Evans are also important influences.

Ultimately it’s Konitz’s gig however. Just why one of jazz’s last remaining elder statesman, present on key recordings by Miles Davis, Stan Kenton and Lennie Tristano, should consistently fall short of superstardom is not easy to explain. This disc, which undoubtedly shows him close to his best, perhaps contains the answer. Konitz has a singular approach that makes no crowd-pleasing concessions and generates few obvious fireworks.

His approach may be just too languorous and detail-rich for listeners not prepared to surrender total concentration. Not party jazz, or in any way a feelgood disc, it nevertheless has the kind of timeless artistry that is a rare commodity, and as such deserves to be heard by a wide audience.

Fred Grand
(Jazz Review, September 2004)

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