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Saxophonist Lee Konitz possesses a somewhat austere take on jazz improvisation and who has spent well over half a century finding new ways to express his unique viewpoint. Deep Lee finds him in a quartet with three musicians working together under the name Minsarah. Featuring German pianist Florian Weber, Israeli-born drummer Ziv Ravitz and American bassist Jeff Denson, Minsarah moves the piano trio forward by leaps and bounds, combining long-form composition, rich harmonic environments and deep melodic invention to express a type of drama that is both introspective and emphatic. All three bring a wide palette of experiences to draw upon when constructing their highly evolved music.
The record opens with a three-part suite by Weber. "Invention" starts with a very intimate duet between Konitz and Weber, and by the time bass and drums enter a deep rapport has been established. After the brief vignette "Chorale," "Canon" gradually expands from saxophone and bowed bass into a lush 7/4 melody and a wonderful solo from Konitz.
Throughout the record, there is a fascinating interaction between abstract textures and dramatic exposition of melody. There is a sense of suspended motion in Ravitz's two compositions, "Cactus" and "See The World For The First Time," the latter which uses arco bass, plucked piano strings and rumbling percussion with evocative sonorities arising intermittently. The collective improvisation "W. 86th" swings with buoyancy and features great solos from all players. Elsewhere, the concept of long-form composition returns, as on Denson's tune "As the Smoke Clears," which develops from a ballad to a fast 6/8 to a burning rock tempo and then back to the 6/8.
This meeting goes far beyond a simple guest appearance by Konitz or a rhythm section gig by Minsarah. Konitz has mixed his voice with a wide range of contexts and he gladly adapts to the vocabulary and dialogue that Minsarah initiated on its first Enja release. This is a project that was born of an ongoing mutual respect.
Track Listing: Three-Part Suite No. 1: Invention, Chorale, Canon; Deep Lee; Stella By Starlight; Cactus; As The Smoke Clears; W 86th; See The World For The First Time; Color; Spiders.
Personnel: Lee Konitz: alto saxophone; Florian Weber: piano; Jeff Denson: bass; Ziv Ravitz: drums.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.