Support All About Jazz

All About Jazz needs your help and we have a deal. Pay $20 and we'll hide those six pesky Google ads that appear on every page, plus this box and the slideout box on the right for a full year! You'll also fund website expansion.


I want to help
605

Lee Konitz: Conversations on the Improviser's Art

Nic Jones By

Sign in to view read count
Lee Konitz: Conversations on the Improviser's Art
Andy Hamilton
Paperback; 312 pages
ISBN: 0472032178
University of Michigan Press
2007



Saxophonist Lee Konitz has long been known for the singularity of his musical approach. Andy Hamilton's book accordingly serves Konitz a whole lot better than might a conventional biography. As the title suggests, the author has compiled a view of the saxophonist through the interview format, and the result is a picture of a man of somewhat restless spirit for whom the very mechanics of the improvisational process are unlikely to ever lose appeal.



The sheer readability of the book is helped in no small part by Konitz's trenchant opinions. These would amount to nothing if it wasn't for the fact that he seems incapable of voicing an opinion unless he's well informed on the subject he's addressing. This is wholly admirable and if it was a more common practice in general the world might be a better place. For example, Konitz's views on Anthony Braxton are contentious but, in terms of fuelling debate, fundamentally constructive. There is no reason why the realm of improvised music should be less fractious than any other, and Konitz is instinctively aware of that.



What makes Konitz compelling as a subject is the restlessness referred to above. Over the course of his long career, Konitz has proven himself to be not only highly adaptable but also capable of retaining his singular instrumental voice in the wide variety of contexts in which he's played. In that respect at least he's the archetypal improvising musician, and through the very format of this book Hamilton has proven himself to be highly appreciative of it.



In its denial both of narrative and overt thematic layout the book affords the reader the chance to view Konitz's career both chronologically and within an episodic frame which affords insight into his work on record. Konitz as an individual consequently emerges with far greater clarity than he otherwise might. This process of emergence is served in no small part by the interviews with other musicians with whom Hamilton has augmented the core text. In this regard, trumpeter Kenny Wheeler's comments on Konitz the melodist afford the kind of succinct insight into the subject's work that countless ill-chosen words would not convey, whilst pianist Dick Katz has highly pertinent things to say about Konitz as an open mind, ever ready to take on new challenges and define his approach accordingly.

In so far as a portrait emerges from this book, the one that does is of a rarefied order. Anyone familiar with and appreciative of Konitz's work will have that position confirmed by this book, but that's not really the point. What has been admirably achieved here is the realization in print of a highly musical, inquisitive mind, one that habitually bucks the cliche.


Shop

CD/LP/Track Review
Extended Analysis
Catching Up With
CD/LP/Track Review
Extended Analysis
Reassessing
Read more articles
First Meeting
First Meeting
Whirlwind Recordings Ltd
2014
buy
Enfants Terribles: Live at the Blue Note
Enfants Terribles:...
Half Note Records
2012
buy
[no cover]
Enfants Terribles
Blue Note
2012
buy
Lee Konitz: Four Classic Albums
Lee Konitz: Four...
Avid Records UK
2012
buy
[no cover]
Insight
Blue Note
2011
buy
Knowinglee
Knowinglee
OutNote Records
2011
buy
Charlie Parker Charlie Parker
sax, alto
Dave Brubeck Dave Brubeck
piano
Stan Getz Stan Getz
sax, tenor
Wayne Shorter Wayne Shorter
saxophone
Dexter Gordon Dexter Gordon
sax, tenor
Paul Desmond Paul Desmond
sax, alto
Gerry Mulligan Gerry Mulligan
sax, baritone
Jackie McLean Jackie McLean
sax, alto
Bud Shank Bud Shank
saxophone

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.