Lee Konitz: The Real Lee Konitz
The sound is cozy, if a bit cloudy at times. You’re in the Midway Lounge, the band situated right behind the bar. No piano, but you never miss it: Billy Bauer’s on guitar, letting it ring with big chords. Lee’s tone is gentle and creamy, seamless as he cruises through "Straightaway". (Actually, it’s "All of Me" with a new theme.) Dick Scott jabs little accents while the cymbal rides steady; the sax rolls on, as smooth as ever. (Think Paul Desmond, with a little more guts.) It’s a joyous three minutes, and only the fade can stop the mood. (Some fades are abrupt; Konitz did the editing, and if a solo lagged or a note cracked, it never made the album.) Turn the sound up for "Foolin’ Myself": this is a workout for Ind, bending large with fat bouncy notes. (Somebody says "Yeah!", and I concur.)
Things get real cozy for "You Go to My Head," and the alto has a cute little growl. Bauer goes loud and lush, like an organ in spots; Scott marches on, somber among the tenderness. (Lee hints an odd theme, heard in Warner Brothers cartoons; we hear it again in "Melancholy Baby.") There’s a high active chorus, then a slower take, and high again before it fades. (No! We want more...)
We get more with "Pennies in Minor", the album’s best with a special guest. (Don Ferrara, a friend of Konitz’, flew in for the weekend shows.) We begin at the end of a Bauer solo; is it an odd structure or an odd edit? The altered chords do wonders for the tune (you know what it’s based on); it’s changed into a nervous walk. Konitz does a kind of sidestep; behind him Ferrara and Bauer – and they’re thick as a brass section. Ind takes a nice springy solo; Bauer’s comp is an angel’s harp. The notes compare Ferrara to Roy Eldridge, but I don’t see it – more relaxed than Eldridge, he flutters soft notes in a friendly kind of way. He and Lee does a chorus together, then easy exchanges with Scott. (Not even a full chorus – the fade again prevails.)
"Easy Livin’" is a joy – another ballad, but in Lee’s sweet tone. (It’s so lovely a fan whistles along.) Billy’s comp is busier than normal, and the brushes are gold. Hear the crowd shat, and the rattle of glasses – this is made for relaxin’. (And applauding; it’s the only track where we hear it.) And we close with a jump: "Midway" bounces, the chords of "Indiana" and a theme close to "Donna Lee". The alto is breathless: ideas keep coming and the spirits are high. The end comes too soon, but the joy never ends – no wonder the club kept him another week.