Lee Konitz has collaborated with an eclectic array of musicians in recent years to make wonderful music. Now 81, the alto saxophonist continues to go his own way when, in the beginning, he could have been another Charlie Parker clone, as his musicianship and bebop developed at about the same time. Ties with Claude Thornhill, Lennie Tristano, Stan Kenton and Miles Davis’ Birth of the Cool Nonet, however, set his career in motion and Konitz used those experiences to carry him in a highly personal direction. Thus, his career has been charted with an eye on the progressive chemistry that comes from musical networking.
Here, he’s featured with reedplayer Francois Thebérge’s group, a sextet augmented with additional instruments to form larger ensembles steeped in the sound of an acoustic band with harmonic overlays coloring the program. There’s no piano and guitarist Mike Felberbaum remains in the background except for some lead work on “Caves”. Instead of the usual chording armaments found in jazz, the ensemble relies on balanced arrangements for its sonorous depth.
Trombone, trumpet, woodwinds and bass lay down a beautiful framework over which Konitz casually floats his horn. His cool demeanor, dry tone and fluid technique meld comfortably over the band’s supporting refrains. Vocalists Claudia Solal and Meta provide interesting counterparts to his alto verses on “A Ballad” and the title track, respectively. Framed by agreeable harmony and a well-balanced octet sound throughout the program, Konitz’ cool alto rises to its usual level in this most welcome performance.
Track Listing: Blues #7; Leezes; A Ballad; Lips; Caves; June '05; Soliloque; Olive Me.
Personnel: Lee Konitz: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, vocals; Francois Theberge: tenor saxophone, C melody saxophone, bass flute, vocals; Jerry Edwards: trombone, vocals; Stephane Belmondo: trumpet, bugle, vocals; Alan Jones: drums, vocals; Paul Imm: double bass, vocals; Mike Felberbaum: guitar; Michel Cote: contrabass clarinet & maikotron (1, 3, 7, 8); Claudia Solal: vocal (3); Meta: vocal (7); Richard Lalonde: baritone saxophone (5); Bastien Still: tuba (2, 4, 5, 6).