This homage to 20th–century French Impressionist composers by alto saxophonist Lee Konitz and the Axis String Quartet might best be described as a sometimes interesting but more often overly ambitious venture. Konitz is an undeniably marvelous player (although not especially well–recorded here) and the quartet is clearly an accomplished unit, but the music itself is on the whole less than inspiring while its relationship to Jazz, at least as depicted on this album, is tenuous at best. It seems that in trying to give their audience the best of both possible worlds (Jazz and classical), Konitz and his companions have missed the mark on both counts. Perhaps the music itself is to blame (as we said, much of it lands considerably short of memorable) or it could be Ohad Talmor’s respectful but lethargic arrangements. Whatever the reason, the well–meaning but largely colorless session lacks whatever it takes to hold one’s interest for more than a few moments. Most of the songs would be unfamiliar except to those who are partial to the French Impressionist movement, with only Claude Debussy’s “Réverie” and “Valse Romantique” more widely popular — which stands to reason, as their melodies stand head and shoulders above the others. One of the more glaring problems with the album is that Talmor and the quartet have placed the normally adventurous Konitz in a musical straitjacket from which he is unable to break free. So in place of Konitz the free–spirited champion of contemporary Jazz, we have Konitz the cautious interpreter of the modern classical repertoire (or at least a fragment of it). Not good. Let us hope that this ill–advised detour is an aberration, and that Konitz will return soon to the milieu in which he is most at ease and from which his enviable reputation has arisen.
Contact:Palmetto Records, 71 Washington Place, #1A, New York, NY 10011. 1–800–PALM CDS; www.palmetto–records.com