Alto sax legend Lee Konitz seems to gather more steam with each passing year. I saw him play twice in the 1970s and each performance was a revelation. He appeared with a piano-less trio taking it both inside and out before an appreciative undergraduate audience and later in the decade with his bracing nonet. In recent years he has recorded prolifically in duets, small combos and orchestras with musicians from all walks of jazz music.
Mark Masters, the Los Angeles arranger and conducter, has founded The American Jazz Institute. This organization has so far paid tribute to Jimmy Knepper and Clifford Brown. Utilizing the same dedication and thoroughness, One Day With Lee artfully assembles five Konitz compositions, and two songs closely associated with him (Tristano's "317 East 32nd Street" and the standard "Lover Man"). While Konitz is the featured soloist, this is certainly a group effort in which the ensemble is given ample solo space. The result is a most pleasant journey into altoist's past as well as the present.
Masters has ingeniously orchestrated two of Konitz's solos. On "Lover Man" the arrangement replicates the Konitz solo in 1953 with the Gerry Mulligan Quartet and on "317 East 32nd Street," the source material was borrowed from 1954's Lee Konitz at Storyville. After the latter is played, Konitz then proceeds to blow a 2004 solo very effectively. Konitz archivests will also enjoy the use of the altoist's quote of "Pavanne" taken from the vaults and arranged initially with just alto and drums and then the full rhythm section on "Dream Stepper."
The spirited performance of the ensemble includes several veterans who are in fine form. Gary Foster is the lead alto and his cool, dry sound, undoubtedly Konitz-influenced, is a reminder of when Konitz and Paul Desmond played side by side. The recently deceased Bill Perkins and Jack Montrose are among the solid reedmen, West Coast valve trombonist Bob Enevoldsen plays, Steve Huffstetter is among the trumpets and bass chores are handled by Putter Smith. Cecilia Coleman, who was also featured on the Clifford Brown Tribute, supplies the pianistics quite effectively throughout the session. All players seem to get in their licks and, on the mid-tempo blues "Cork 'n' Bib," just about everyone gets a short one chorus solo.
The impression that this listener is left with is that One Day With Lee was indeed a rewarding one for the protagonist alto man, the Ensemble and the end user sitting back in a comfortable chair with tapping toes and nodding head.
Personnel: Mark Masters, arranger, conductor; Lee Konitz, Gary Foster, Jerry Pinter, Jack Montrose, Bill Perkins,saxes; Scott Englebright, Louis Fasman, Steve Huffstetter, Ron Stout, trumpets; Lee Benedict, Dave Woodley, Bob Enevoldsen, trombone; Cecilia Coleman, piano; Putter Smith, bass; Kendall Kay, drums