Lee Konitz Past and Present

Jeff Stockton By

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You'd think that by now the influence and relevance of someone present at the Birth of the Cool might be frozen in time, but for Lee Konitz, after sixty years of alto innovation and excellence, reissues, first-time releases and new projects continue to appear at a steady clip.

Lee Konitz
2004 (1969)

Peacemeal , initially recorded and released in 1969, demonstrates that while Konitz never abandoned his trademark cleverness and laid back style, he flirted with the avant-garde by incorporating electric instruments and playing with young musicians, such as the unmistakable Jack DeJohnette. The three centerpiece tracks here are compositions by the classical Hungarian composer Béla Bartók recast for jazz quintet, and "Thumb Under" features a rockish drumbeat, Eddie Gomez' steady bass and Dick Katz' electric piano. On "Village Joke" each musician takes his turn with the tradition-inspired Hungarian melody, while Gomez and DeJohnette lock down the steps of the "Peasant Dance." You can hear DeJohnette itching to stretch out on the title track's varied tempos, with Gomez and Katz as willing partners, while Konitz' electric horn creates a soothing mellow warmth that echoes his alto in a lower register.

Lee Konitz/Alan Broadbent
More Live-Lee
2004 (2000)

In 2000, Konitz joined pianist Alan Broadbent for two nights at the Jazz Bakery in California. This fertile meeting has now produced More Live-Lee , the sequel to the original issued last year. The standards and familiar Konitz originals played here are pure melody, with the altoist demonstrating the regal calm and wit of an elder statesman. Note his whispery and raspy tone on "I Can't Get Started," the seemingly endless fount of ideas for "Body and Soul," and Broadbent's spot-on left hand heard on "Thingin'."

Mark Masters Ensemble with Lee Konitz
One Day with Lee

One Day with Lee is the Konitz of today, fronting a 14-piece band on tunes from the leader's songbook. Konitz has gotten grittier and more expressive since the early days, and he willfully digs into the warm blues of "Cork 'n' Bib," while "317 East 32nd Street" not only inspires the altoist to three improvisations, it draws fire from the saxophone section and solos for trumpet and trombone. Trumpets dialogue on "Palo Alto," and on "Dream Stepper" and "Gundula" the big band create a spinning colorwheel of sound.

Konitz says that when he runs out of ideas, he takes the horn out of his mouth. As these CDs show, as he approaches 80, Lee Konitz is a giant of jazz who shows that it's simply too late to stop now.


Tracks: 1. Thumb Under (No. 90 from Mikrokosmos) (3:16); 2. Lester Leaps In (3:26); 3. Village Joke (No. 130 from Mikrokosmos) (4:09); 4. Something to Sing (4:13); 5. Peacemeal (7:08); 6. Body and Soul (5:09); 7. Peasant Dance (No. 128 from Mikrokosmos) (5:02); 8. Fourth Dimension (4:39); 9. Second Thoughts (3:10); 10. Subconscious Lee (4:15); 11. Lester Leaps In [*] (3:23); 12. Body and Soul [*] (6:37); 13. Subconscious Lee [*] (5:54).
Personnel: Marshall Brown: Baritone Horn, Valve Trombone; Jack DeJohnette: Drums; Eddie Gomez: Bass; Dick Katz: Piano, Electric Piano; Lee Konitz: Alto, Soprano, and Tenor Saxophones.

More Live-Lee

Tracks: 1. Invitation (7:34); 2. Body and Soul (6:21); 3. Thingin' (6:47); 4. You Stepped Out of a Dream (5:40); 5. Nothin' (4:10); 6. I Can't Get Started (8:03); 7. Lennie's Pennies (6:53); 8. How Deep Is the Ocean? (7:18); 9. You Go to My Head (4:33); 10. Bending Broadly (2:55); 11. Just Friends (5:52).
Personnel: Alan Broadbent: Piano; Lee Konitz: Alto Saxophone.

One Day with Lee

Tracks: 1. Thingin' (7:24); 2. Dream Stepper (10:42); 3. Gundula (7:29); 4. Cork 'N' Bib (10:16); 5. 317 East 32nd Street (11:14); 6. Lover Man (8:31); 7. Palo Alto (8:30).
Personnel: Les Benedict: Trombone; Cecilia Coleman: Piano; Bob Enevoldsen: Trombone; Scott Englebright: Trumpet; Louis Fasman: Trumpet; Steve Huffsteter: Trumpet; Kendall Kay: Drums; Lee Konitz: Alto Sax; Mark Masters: Conductor; Jack Montrose: Saxophone; Bill Perkins: Saxophone; Jerry Pinter: Saxophone; Putter Smith: Bass; Ron Stout: Trumpet; Dave Woodley: Trombone.


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