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Konitz/Swallow/Motian: Three Guys

Derek Taylor By

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Perenially the self-deprecating soul, Konitz offers a brief but highly understated analysis of the music contained here in his brief notes to the disc. For my money, the evidence presented in aural form is all the proof necessary as to why he remains one of the most inventive improvisers alive. He can take even the most deceptively simple melodic line and twist it into shapes and textures you didn’t even realize where there. Then there’s his instantly recognizable tone- a winning blend of dry congeniality and ductile raspiness.

Swallow and Motian are no slouches either. The place of the electric bass in jazz is highly akin to that of its acoustic counterpart in the realm of rock music. In the opinion of many jazz listeners the number of players who can make it’s amplified sound fit within the largely acoustic sonorities of the traditional jazz ensemble are a limited few- Jaco Pastorious, Jamaldeen Tacuma and Bob Cranshaw come immediately to mind. In the hands of Swallow the stigma attached to the instrument becomes superfluous. He’s managed to devise a completely original approach which accentuates the instrument’s advantages (among them a guitar-like attack with a bass register range) while at the same time side-stepping the majority of it’s shortcomings (a propensity among players for easy flash over substance). Motian percussive approach is based in a kindred equilibrium. His drums can goad his partners forward in a accommodating, but prodding rhythmic embrace or just as easily dissolve into a constantly shifting backdrop of subtle accents.

The program here is custom designed for thoughtful and spontaneous improvisation within the conventional boundaries of song structures. A requisite pair of pieces by composers outside the group and a feast of tunes from the Konitz, Motian and Swallow songbooks are featured to wonderful effect. Konitz is his usual ingenious self; thoughtfully engaging his partners in relaxed, but by no means decelerated discourse. Favorites are a difficult prospect to single out, but if forced to chose I’d have to pick the beauteous bounce of “Thingin’” and Swallow’s always engaging “Eiderdown.” After over half a century Konitz is still at the top of the heap and with Swallow and Motian right there beside him this disc demands your attention.


Track Listing: It

Personnel: Lee Konitz- alto saxophone; Steve Swallow- electric bass; Paul Motian- drums.

Title: Three Guys | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Enja Records


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