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Lee Konitz: The Real Lee Konitz

Robert Spencer By

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The welcome reappearance of this disc should further cement Lee Konitz's reputation as one of the foremost improvisers of the last few decades.

His is a subtle art, calling attention less to his instrumental abilities (although these are considerable) than to the melodic possibilities of the song at hand. That is, he is a master at drawing out of the harmonic structure of a piece a seemingly endless stream of musical ideas, all of which he uses to create a mood that is coherent both within itself and in relation to the head.

Thus he was never charged, as were equally great improvisers on the scene in 1957 when this disc was recorded, with departing from the song he was playing into unrelated, uncharted land, or simply into incoherence. On the other hand, the "cool," in the too-often-applied sense of being unadventurous or unimaginative, label that was often applied to him was no less justified. Listen to these tunes closely, and you'll be overwhelmed by Konitz's improvisational ability. Always soft-spoken and quiet, never flashy, but always breathtaking in its continuity and melodic acumen.

Thanks to 32Jazz, all jazz fans can savor this early masterpiece by a great master.


Title: The Real Lee Konitz | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Blue Note


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