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Sound-Lee!: Plays the Music Of Lee Konitz

Mark Corroto By

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The Dutch piano trio led by Guss Jenssen adds alto saxophonist and countryman Jorrit Dijkstra for this tribute to Lee Konitz. Actually, to be precise, this is a tribute to the music of Lee Konitz.

Not the Lee Konitz of this century, with his polished elder statesman tone, nor the cool leanings of his collaborations with Miles Davis and Gil Evans. This live recording from 2001 is both a backwards look to Konitz’s collaboration with pianist Lennie Tristano and a forward prediction of what might happen if Lennie were still around for a reunion gig.

Tristano’s craftsmanship (while Konitz was a disciple) was a perfect foil to the openly emotional bop revolution that was occurring in the 1940s and '50s. Jenssen and Dijkstra make this their jumping off point. They turn five Konitz, one Tristano, and one Dijkstra composition into a "back to the future" 21st-century jazz quartet sitting in on a 1950’s jazz club.

”Progression” opens the disc with a mid-tempo junket allowing room to stretch out sax, drum and piano solos. Jenssen incorporates two-handed rhythms and speed into an impressive statement. The follow-the-leader by way the odd note of “Hi Beck” is a perfect jumping off point for Dijkstra to both align himself with Konitz and touch on Desmond and Dolphy.

Jenssen’s piano, well-informed by Tristano, doesn’t ignore the innovations of Thelonious Monk and Elmo Hope, while touching on Teddy Wilson and Art Tatum. Stride is played alongside the coolness these tunes were written for, almost as if Jenssen thought “play early Cecil Taylor” while setting up for this gig. Both “Palo Alto” and “Ablution” display a breakneck bebop style without stepping into the realm of hard bop. They preserve the politeness of Konitz and Charlie Parker with speed instead of harshness.

Dijkstra is an experienced avant gardist, evidenced on the recent solo recording 30 Micro-Stems (BVHaast) and Humming, with the Canadian band Talking Pictures (Songlines). His prior musical efforts have displayed a fertile imagination and a strong sense of the music of Ornette Coleman and John Zorn. This outing has Dijkstra walking the same free path, but beginning with Lee Konitz circa 1950.

The cool tone of “Kary’s Trance” is also not without its quick-witted intricacies. Dijkstra weaves a bit of Ornette through the Konitz original, tempting an outward path as Konitz was know to do. Jenssen reenters with two-handed elegance a la John Lewis before himself venturing a bit out.

It seems to be more enjoyable for out cats to play in straighter settings these days; their control adds to the excitement.

The quartet proves the truly hip music of Konitz & Tristano played today loses none of its downtown swank, even in translation.


Track Listing: Progression; Hi Beck; Palo-Alto; Near-Lee; Ablution; Kary

Personnel: Guus Janssen

Title: Plays the Music of Lee Konitz | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: GeestGronden

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