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Lee Konitz duo at the Jazz Bakery, Los Angeles

Craig Jolley By

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One of the great jazz mavericks Lee Konitz has led a huge variety of bands and musicians, but he seems to gravitate toward intimate, two-way conversations. Martial Solal, Red Mitchell, and Dick Katz are among his duet recording partners. His week with pianist Alan Broadbent at the Jazz Bakery is intended to produce his next CD, something of a follow-up to his recent collaboration with Brad Mehldau and Charlie Haden at the same venue. With no electronic amplification the audience was treated to hear purity of sound, a vast pleasure in itself. Konitz' classic, vibratoless sound is still intact, further adding to the sense of purity.
The repertoire, drawn from the common pool of show tunes and jazz standards, served as points of departure. Instead of stating a tune as written Konitz or Broadbent would often play an abstraction of it as his theme statement. Once they got into their improvs they would leave virtually everything about the original tune behind. The concert depended almost entirely on ability to spontaneously compose, a talent Konitz and Broadbent excel at. Nearly every solo stood as a distinguished statement, this concert acting only as a warm-up for the recording sessions later in the week. Konitz' version of "Round Midnight" was particularly moving, and both players got it going on "Star Eyes," Broadbent giving his solo a funereal feel with sequence of heavy, Shearing-voiced minor chords. Broadbent began his accompaniment to "How High the Moon" with a walking bass and for the second chorus shifted into a completely minimalist sensibility with a single note every measure or so. He took his wonderfully contrasting solo over extravagant Rachmaninoff chords. Possibly as a dedication to the recently "retired" coach Bob Knight the concert climaxed on "Indiana" with a long exchange/interweaving between the players reminiscent of Konitz' records with Warne Marsh.
There was an air of sameness from one tune to the next. The duo did play one blues, and there was nothing wrong with it, but it was the only piece that didn't take off. Both Broadbent and Konitz can play the blues—maybe they'd have felt inspired to get dirty if the small, but attentive audience were larger and more boisterous.


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