Lee Konitz and Martial Solal: Star Eyes 1983

C. Michael Bailey By

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Lee Konitz and Martial Solal

Star Eyes 1983



Even in his eighties, pianist Martial Solal has proven to be the Higgs' Boson of jazz. He readily demonstrates the substantial mass he brings to music most recently on his uniformly excellent Live at the Village Vanguard: I Can't Give You Anything But Love (Cam Jazz, 2008). This recording is sub-atomic, elemental jazz ,or, in the literary vernacular, post-modern, deconstructive jazz. Solal dismantled the Great American Songbook, revealing the provocative intellect and seamy interior of this great songwriting. He also demonstrated that free improvisation can be incorporated into the familiar, revealing something new.

But what of Solal's salad days? Was he as forward-thinking 30 years ago? Certainly. He produced something near a desert island disc with alto saxophonist Lee Konitz at the New-Jazz-Festival in Hamburg in 1983 with Star Eyes 1983 (Hatology 1983/2009). This recording has justly enjoyed its revivals because it finds two masters of like mind making the most progressive jazz without flying full-force into saxophonist John Coltrane circa 1966.

The standards interpretation on Star Eyes 1983 is far more a function of experience that it is preparation. Jazz musicians simply do not sit down, putting pen to paper, and produce music like this. Rather they get on stage after a lifetime in the profession, call a tune, and play...and sometimes, when the stars properly align, masters bring forth a masterpiece. Telepathically, Konitz and Solal dismantle two war horses in "Body and Soul" and "What's New," laying the melodies open for inspection. Each gives a master's class on several eras of jazz within only a few minutes. Solal will pass from Cecil Taylor percussive dissonance to Willie "The Lion" Smith stride in the same measure. For his part, Konitz vamps bebop, but not at the expense of his intellectual lessons learned from Lennie Tristano.

What Solal gave Konitz on this recording was freedom, a mental and creative elasticity that the saxophonist could use as a springboard for improvisation beyond the normal harmonic coloring within-the- lines. This music is perfect for the probing jazz enthusiast who cannot make sense of late Coltrane or fellow saxophonist Eric Dolphy. There is enough of the melody retained to see where the artists are going and appreciate them for it.

Tracks: Just Friends; Star Eyes; It's You; Body & Soul; Subconscious- Lee; Fluctuat Nec Mergitur; April; What's New; Cherokee.

Personnel: Lee Konitz: alto saxophone; Martial Solal: piano.

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