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Lee Konitz: What True Improvising Is

By Published: November 7, 2012
A couple of recordings from the 1960s that many regard as classics come to mind in light of Konitz's recent work, partly due to their instrumentation and partly due to their overall approach to improvisation: The Lee Konitz Duets (Milestone, 1968), featuring a host of guest artists, and Motion (Verve, 1961), with bassist Sonny Dallas
Sonny Dallas
and drummer Elvin Jones
Elvin Jones
Elvin Jones
1927 - 2004
. Konitz recalls both vividly. On Duets, he says, "We just got together on that date, and every half hour someone was supposed to report for the next duet. We finished the day a half hour early as I recall. One of the final pieces was a little riff that Marshall Brown had suggested, and we played pretty freely on that. Some chord structures also, standard chord structures. I enjoyed that record a lot." With Motion, "No chordal instruments made it a very special situation," says Konitz, "and because it was just me and bass and drums, I let myself go. I felt like playing longer solos. Also, you'd have to be a complete idiot to not be able to swing with Elvin Jones. So, in spite of myself I swung a little bit."

When asked about his standing in jazz as something of an elder statesman, Konitz points again to his dedication to what he refers to as "true improvising"-staying far way from "getting trapped in a stylistic thing of having to play the same licks over and over." But he summarizes his place in jazz overall with a remarkably simple statement: "All I can honestly tell you is I appreciate being included in this family."

Selected Discography

Enfants Terribles, Live at the Blue Note (Half Note, 2012)
Lee Konitz/Brad Mehldau/Charlie Haden/Paul Motian, Live at Birdland (ECM, 2011)
Dan Tepfer/Lee Konitz, Duos with Lee (Sunnyside, 2009)
Lee Konitz, Some New Stuff (DIW, 2001)
Lee Konitz, The Lee Konitz Duets (Milestone, 1968; reissued on OJC, 1991)
Lee Konitz, Motion (Verve, 1961, reissued 2003)

Photo Credit

Richard Conde

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