To say that Lee Konitz has made some very valuable contributions to jazz would be stating the obvious. Now that I have done so, it is time to get on to his current recording.
Konitz stands amidst the Mark Masters Ensemble, a 14-piece band that gives the saxophonist the space to invent or re-invent tunes that he has written or has been associated with. Masters brings in the charts that give the music fresh vitality with his insight. To cite one instance, he transcribes a Konitz solo from 1954 for the saxophones on “317 East 32nd Street” that bloods the song anew. Besides, there is the constant of seamless ensemble sections and the soloists, who bring in intrinsic perceptions.
Konitz navigates the range of expression. His long lines, the short notes that dip, and the bright swing that propels the song are all present. His punctuation on “Thingin’” builds the structure gradually as he creates tension through gnarled phrases and then releases it with long, flowing lines. Pianist Cecilia Coleman opens the flow with a lilting solo that also gets Steve Huffstetter on trumpet into the groove with crisp notes that add to the shine. “Palo Alto” is given a palpable energy not only by the fluid ensemble, but also by the way Masters places the soloists. Konitz scoots off first followed by Gary Foster, who swings compactly and then converses with Konitz, preserving the logic and the coherence of the move. And there can be no denying trumpet players Huffstetter and Ron Stout, who swing infectiously. Beneath all the music, and driving it with an airy but nonetheless propulsive beat, is drummer Kendall Kay.
Masters stirs up the Konitz pot most convincingly.
Personnel: Mark Masters, music director; Lee Konitz, alto sax; Gary Foster, Jerry Pinter, Jack Montrose, Bill Perkins, reeds; Scott Englebright, Louis Fasman, Steve Huffsteter, Ron Stout, trumpet; Les Benedict, Dave Woodley, Bob Enevoldsen, trombone; Cecilia Coleman, piano; Putter Smith, bass; Kendall Kay, drums.
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