Costumes Are Mandatory is very collegially advertised as a collaborative album featuring Ethan Iverson, Lee Konitz, Larry Grenadier, and Jorge Rossy. And while the music may indeed be collaborative, even multi-improvisational at times, it's Iverson's date and he's very clearly the leader. The record is envisioned as an homage to--"a dialogue with," according to the liner notes--the late blind pianist Lennie Tristano, who in addition to generally being credited as a founder of the 'cool school' (an oversimplification, to be sure), and an early avant-garde pioneer, was also a primary teacher and influence on Konitz (as well as ...read more
Besides being one of the few altoists that emerged in the 1950s that doesn't sound like Charlie Parker, Lee Konitz was a true musical adventurer whose explorations in free jazz, electronic instruments, and just all around anything goes sessions resulted in some of the most exciting music that came out of the fifties and beyond. His playing, which is marked by a detachment and intellectualism that can sound rehearsed, isn't for everyone, but there's no doubt that Konitz has, and continues to be, an inspiration to many. Four Classic Albums collects some of Konitz's lesser-known work from the 1950s--not his ...read more
Lee Konitz is legendary as one of the great individualists in jazz, an art form that has always placed an extraordinary high value on individualism and unique forms of expression. I've pretty much dedicated myself to trying to figure out what true improvising is," he says, as opposed to playing what you know and getting loose with it. I probably have a bit of a unique place in being able to fool around with famous tunes the way I do."Konitz's focus on standards common to the jazz repertoire continues on the 2012 recording that features him prominently in ...read more
At almost 85 years old Lee Konitz can play whatever he damn well pleases on his alto saxophone, and it's a good thing he does. He may currently be making some of the most interesting music of his long career. Enfants Terribles: Live at the Blue Note teams Konitz with three first-rate musicians--all jazz stars in their own right--for an album of standards so loosely interpreted that finding the recognizable melody is a bit like a Where's Waldo" puzzle. It's in there. Keep looking.This record is truly detached from the structured cool of early Konitz albums like Subconscious-Lee ...read more
Super groups are, by their very nature, either bright shining stars or catastrophic exploding supernovae. Dream team basketball lineups get beat by upstarts, and the new Stallone/Schwarzenegger/Van Damme movie is sure to be a nonstarter. The reasons for the flops are usually chemistry and vision, both essential requirements.Same can be said for jazz groups. Listen to a longstanding unit work and its affinity is obvious. Assemble a quartet for a night, or fortnight and evidence of its chemistry (or lack of it) is apparent straightaway.Such rapport is instantly recognizable from this live 2011 date at New ...read more
Lee Konitz/Bill Frisell/Gary Peacock/Joey Baron Enfants Terribles: Live at the Blue NoteHalf Note Records2012The idea of going into a club and playing a set of standards without any plans, preconceptions or pre-arrangements ain't exactly new; it's what plenty of jazz musicians do, each and every night. But it's one thing to go in and run down some Real Book charts, head-solo-head style, and give everyone a chance to stretch out and solo on some familiar material; it's another thing entirely to be at a level where the material is reinvented, set after ...read more
Lee Konitz and Martial SolalStar Eyes 1983Hatology2009 Even in his eighties, pianist Martial Solal has proven to be the Higgs' Boson of jazz. He readily demonstrates the substantial mass he brings to music most recently on his uniformly excellent Live at the Village Vanguard: I Can't Give You Anything But Love (Cam Jazz, 2008). This recording is sub-atomic, elemental jazz ,or, in the literary vernacular, post-modern, deconstructive jazz. Solal dismantled the Great American Songbook, revealing the provocative intellect and seamy interior of this great songwriting. He also demonstrated that free improvisation can ...read more
The idea of making the mold while breaking the mold may seem paradoxical, but it's appropriate when exploring education. The education sector has become obsessed with standardization--in regard to everything from pedagogy and methodology to content--but nobody seems to address the fact that much of the content itself wouldn't exist if not for original thinkers who refused to adhere to the norms and expectations that shackle others. The very idea of learning is to better yourself and go a step beyond, though this ideal often gets lost in the daily push and pull that surrounds education. Saxophonist ...read more
Lee Konitz / Bill Frisell / Gary Peacock / Joey BaronThe Blue NoteNew York, NYJune 5, 2011 Descriptions of alto saxophonist Lee Konitz often place a little too much weight on his role as a musician of yesteryear. Certainly, Konitz's contributions as one of the first cool players in the bands of Miles Davis and Lennie Tristano are part of jazz history, and he is one of the few self-made sounds from an era when every alto player wanted to sound like Charlie Parker. Yet in celebrating his past, short shrift is sometimes given to ...read more
Konitz/Mehldau/Haden/MotianLive at BirdlandECM Records2011 The tunes are familiar, Great American Songbook and jazz standards all. So for those unfamiliar with the names involved in this quartet outing, the old complaint of same old same old" could surface. But with alto saxophonist Lee Konitz at the top of the listing, same old same old" gets rolled out the door. Konitz, with over 60 years of professional experience--from the 1949 Birth of the Cool (Capitol Records, 1957) sessions with arranger Gil Evans and trumpeter Miles Davis, to the present day--is one ...read more
While there is some truth in the old adage if it ain't broke don't fix it," it's not always bad to mess with a good thing. Saxophonist Dave Liebman and pianist Richie Beirach have been playing together for over 40 years, in ensembles ranging from the big band of Quest for Freedom (Sunnyside, 2010) and smaller ensemble of Quest and Re-Dial: Live in Hamburg (OutNote, 2010) to duo records like 1985's Double Edge, recently reissued with two early Quest albums as Searching for the Next Sound of Bebop (Storyville, 2010). It's one thing to place two players who share such ...read more
Konitz/Mehldau/Haden/MotianLive at BirdlandECM Records2011 Grist for what seems like an endless flow of recordings, The Great American Songbook has, ultimately, become as much a crutch as it is an inspiration. There's no denying the staying power of music that's near-Jungian in its collective familiarity, but if an artist is simply running down the tunes, à la Real Book--head, solo, head--the music too easily becomes nothing more than a tired retread, a kind of whitewashing that, rather than moving jazz forward, stops it in its tracks. But there are exceptions: pianist Keith ...read more
The wondrous nature of Jugendstil II is ensconced in the breathtaking improvisations of alto saxophone giant Lee Konitz, the way they intersect with the ideas of brilliant young tenor saxophonist Chris Cheek, and the effect they have on the birth of new compositions by virtuoso bassist Stéphane Furic Leibovici. The miraculous glue that holds it all together is the magnificently spare songs, both written and suggested. Add to that the exacting melodious bass lines that the maestro, Stéphane Furic Leibovici, annunciates and declares with his fluid pizzicato. Without intending to pick up from where Jugendstil I (ESP Disk, 2008) left ...read more
In 1975, the members of a musical appreciation society called The Danish Jazz Exchange clubbed together to bring their two favorite American improvisers, Warne Marsh and Lee Konitz, to their homeland. They then listened in rapt attention as the saxophonists played a series of concerts at Montmartre, then Copenhagen's premier jazz venue. The shadow of blind pianist/teacher Lennie Tristano, with whom Marsh and Konitz studied in the 1950s, and who was to die three years after these tracks were cut, loomed large. After the concerts in Denmark, Marsh and Konitz stayed on in Europe to play for ...read more
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