The recent past has witnessed a spate of tribute albums, many with little heart and no soul. Now comes another, all the way from Holland. This one stands tall, propped by a band that does not wallow in flattery but brings in enough fresh ideas to make listening a rewarding experience. Forgive them for calling themselves Sound-Lee... another pun in the life of Lee Konitz probably won’t hurt!
The selections home in on the bebop and free improvisation sides of Konitz. The one original is called, brace for it, “Near-Lee.” Built over a funky opening vamp, Dijkstra takes it over short, stub notes that jump into long lines. Not content with the change, he twists and knots, leaves the melody line behind, only to acknowledge it again. Janssen is more core comfortable, swirling and describing becoming arcs while his left hand punctuates with authority. Though he is volatile and sinewy in his exploration of little nooks and crannies, Dijkstra can bring a calmer mien and stay close to the melody, as he does on “Kary’s Trance.” A warm presence, a light swing and a charming ambience persist as the band cleaves to the essence.
Janssen weaves spiralling runs and colourful articulation into “Ablution,” never letting his zest topple into excess. The rhythm section feeds and pushes to coalesce into a compact whole. The terrain of “Hi Beck” is stretched, the dynamics contorting on Dijkstra’s horn as he invests it with his own logic that on occasion licks a tuneful line, but in the main devotes itself to freer manipulations. Janssen prefers nimble runs, a flurry of notes, and a suppleness that lets him turn the music into avenues of distinct pleasure.
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