Perhaps there are benefits to not being signed to a single label, especially when the artist is as well-known and recordable and in-demand as Lee Konitz. While, say, a Jackie McLean was going almost unrecorded until he signed with Blue Note and a Benny Golson was in the same situation until Arkadia started releasing a stream of notable CD's, Lee Konitz has continued to record CD after CD on both sides of the Atlantic. His output has been such that some of the rarer recordings have become highly sought. In the past year alone, Konitz has recorded on Palmetto, Prestige, Philology, West Wind, DIW, Steeplechase and RCA Victor.
Now, Chesky can be added to the list of labels offering to the public even more invaluable Lee Konitz recordings. The difference on Parallels, though, is that the recording was done in the usual, and unusual, Chesky environment offering high acoustic potential, and it was completed with absolute dedication to sound fidelity. The objective of the label is to capture the improvisational nature of the music without overdubs or enhancement, just as it unfurls from the interactive imaginations of the musicians.
It is Konitz' nature to travel alone to various venues and to play with the local musicians as a continuing exploration in the variations of sound and the humanity involved in the instantaneous exchange of ideas.
Konitz' openness to performing with an ever-shifting roster of musicians is evident once again on Parallels. While he had performed numerous times with drummer Bill Goodwin and bassist Steve Gilmore, youngish tenor saxman Mark Turner and guitarist Peter Bernstein had the opportunity to play with Konitz for the first time on the CD.
You would never suspect that they hadn't played together before this date. Furthermore, you would never suspect that the entire performance was purely improvisational, with no rehearsal. Both Turner and Bernstein had already studied Konitz' lines and his music, and they were entirely prepared for the opportunity. Bob Brookmeyer's description of his approach, "line with color," is entirely appropriate for Parallels as well. Often ad libbing over standards by describing their outlines, instead of attacking their centers, the musicians on Parallels indeed do improvise in parallel, that is, in counterpoint.
Especially on "317 East 32nd," Turner's close listening to Konitz' off-center alteration of "Out Of Nowhere's" chord structure is so instantaneous that the tune at first becomes an unwritten canon. The use of two saxophones, one with such a bright alto tone, is reminiscent of Paul Desmond's and Gerry Mulligan's pianoless and guitar-less work on Two Of A Mind from the 1960's.
The perennial favorite, "Subconscious Lee," ends the CD, and the instrumentation seems to be no mistake. The use of alto and tenor sax, as well as guitar, reminds one of the original 1949 recording with Konitz, Warne Marsh and Billy Bauer, along with Lennie Tristano, Sal Mosca, Peter Decker, Arnold Fishkin, Shelly Manne, Jeff Morton and Denzel Best. Turner, who has performed from the soul in the past with sometimes astounding results, proves that he's a complete practitioner of the instrument, his work entirely within the parameters of the cool, curvilinear shapes of Konitz' phrasing. And Bernstein illuminates the tunes seemingly effortlessly, his solos on tunes like "Palo Alto" fully rounded models of logical and fresh development, even as he slips into the shoes of predecessors who accompanied Konitz.
The appeal of Lee Konitz, always going against the stream of jazz development and pursuing his own muse, has been the irresistibility of his pristine tone combined with the unpredictability of his always restless ideas. Parallels presents Konitz in yet another of his countless recordings with equally creative sidemen and the highest possible reproduction of the music from a live event to a recorded CD.
Track Listing: How Deep Is The Ocean, For Hans, Skylark, LT, 317 East 32nd, Palo Alto, Eyes, Subconscious Lee
Personnel: Lee Konitz, alto sax; Mark Turner, tenor sax; Peter Bernstein, guitar; Steve Gilmore, acoustic bass; Bill Goodwin, drums