Lee Konitz and Martial Solal were in the 15th year of their recorded relationship in the fall of 1983 and their easy rapport is evident within the first notes of "Just Friends," the breezy opener of Star Eyes. After a cursory harmonic introduction by Konitz, Solal enters with a characteristically buoyant counterpoint that sends the altoist to the height of his register. The liberties the duo take with the familiar standard sound every bit as fresh today as they must have sounded to the audience in Hamburg 25 years ago.
In the notes to this reissue, writer Art Lange sums up the openness and support that Solal's piano affords Konitz: "Solal's gift to Konitz is a liberation from inherent restrictions." Indeed, the altoist's famously bone-dry lines tend toward extremes of range and duration and often seem to brim with a rare urgency.
On "It's You," a Konitz original, the saxophonist unfurls a series of cascading lines that mirror the easy virtuosity of Solal's preceding solo statement. Over the pliant chords, Konitz zips through the last boppish A section and barely beats Solal's right hand in a brilliant gliss to the piece's final note. "Subconscious-Lee" finds an ebullient Konitz feeding off Solal's rhythmic and harmonic provocations. The altoist begins with Charlie Parker's melody to "Hot House," before slipping into an improvisation that is, at once, a brilliant abstraction on the piece and a completely unencumbered dialogue with Solal. After sparkling unaccompanied piano, Konitz reenters with his own melody over the familiar chord changes and the piece ends with a brilliant run down Solal's keyboard.
The duo are equally assured and unfettered during the quieter moments. On "What's New," sparkling lines of melodic clarity are developed and tempo is manipulated from funeral dirge to bright midrange swing. Brief solo explorations lead back together to a beautifully ambiguous ending.
Just Friends; Star Eyes; It's You; Body & Soul; Subconscious-Lee; Fluctuat Nec Mergitur; April; What's New; Cherokee.
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