One of the notable aspects of Atavistic's Unheard Music Series is the wealth of material it keeps unearthing from the vaults. Time does not seem to efface this music; instead, it stamps the indelibility of the compositions. So it is with the material here, which was recorded almost forty years ago.
The core of the Contemporary Jazz Quintet was formed in 1959. At first it played music that hinged on hard bop, but when Ornette Coleman came along, it made the switch to his music, which became the takeoff point for a move into free jazz and then the induction of the last member of the band, Niels Harrit.
The quintet's music is edgy and volatile, a cornucopia of sound that fills the till of free jazz with a dynamic fluidity. The eerie air that oscillates from Harrit's saw is countered by the vamp of Steffen Andersen's bass and the flexing groove that Bo Thirge Andersen sets up on the cymbals. But even as the rhythm section settles into a hardier bed, Franz Beckerlee's alto sax and Hugh Steinmetz's trumpet ride on it with fractured cries. Intensity is often at fever pitch, but it's always connected through that ingrained cord to emotion. Yet in one of the most effective moments, Harrit and Andersen, who bows on the bass, bring in a placidity that cools the atmosphere for a short spell before the churn evolves into a rousing joust between Steinmetz and Beckerlee. They may wail and they may yowl, but the listener is constantly drawn into the vortex.
First time I met Lee Konitz, my mentor who completely changed my life, in 1992. He was giving a masterclass at the Cologne Conservatory (Germany) where I was a freshmen (with playing experience around three years total)
First time I met Lee Konitz, my mentor who completely changed my life, in 1992. He was giving a masterclass at the Cologne Conservatory (Germany) where I was a freshmen (with playing experience around three years total). He saw an alto sax on my neck and said: Hey, how about you there, would you like to play something for us? I played a piece with the piano. OK, said Lee, how about you play something unaccompanied? Oh yeah! I was deep into transcribing Sonny Stitt and pretty much into playing as fast as possible as many right notes as possible. So I played Oleo in about 300 beats per minute and was very proud of myself. Lee was tapping his foot all the way through. Hmm, he said, that was in time and all that... (I thought - yeah, of course, haha!) and then he said, You've got a lot of quantity, how about quality? It took me 15 years to realize what he meant.