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Warne Marsh and Lee Konitz: Two Not One

Chris Mosey By

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In 1975, the members of a musical appreciation society called The Danish Jazz Exchange clubbed together to bring their two favorite American improvisers, Warne Marsh and Lee Konitz, to their homeland. They then listened in rapt attention as the saxophonists played a series of concerts at Montmartre, then Copenhagen's premier jazz venue. The shadow of blind pianist/teacher Lennie Tristano, with whom Marsh and Konitz studied in the 1950s, and who was to die three years after these tracks were cut, loomed large.

After the concerts in Denmark, Marsh and Konitz stayed on in Europe to play for small but enthusiastic audiences in Norway, Holland, Belgium, France and Britain. They then returned to Copenhagen for more gigs and recordings at the Rosenberg Studio before heading back to the States.

This boxed set of four CDs is the document of their visit to Denmark. It contains more than five hours of music, arranged in chronological order. A total of 48 numbers—standards; works by Tristano and some of their own compositions. The two saxophonists play together as part of a quintet, while Marsh also fronts a trio and a quartet.

There are moments of great beauty. One such comes on disk two with a relaxed and lyrical treatment of Willard Robison's plaintive ballad "Old Folks." On Jimmy Van Heusen's "Darn That Dream," which closes the same disk, Marsh and Konitz also succeed in blending sensitive interpretation with intelligent experimentation. But Jerome Kern's "The Way You Look Tonight" is, alas, impossible to recognize under all the harmonic and melodic jiggery.

Charlie Parker's "Au Privave" is an outstanding track, with Marsh at his best—his technique under tight control—and with worthy contributions from pianist Ole Kock Hansen and bassist Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen, before the two principals lock horns and take it out. Tristano's "Wow," once seen as the epitome of cool jazz, is given reverential treatment by Marsh and Konitz.

British bassist Peter Ind, another former Tristano pupil, travelled to Copenhagen to play on some of the tracks. He is showcased on "Foolin' Myself," which also features some very nice, understated guitar work from Dave Cliff.

Cliff returns more assertively on Konitz's "Sound-Lee." Bach's "Two Part Intervention No 1, Allegro" is also fun, producing a roar of approval from the usually subdued audience.

Sometimes the improvisation degenerates into melodic lines that doubtless make sense in musical theory, but all too often sound like musical doodling to the untrained ear. A small price to pay for what is, in the final analysis, an extremely rewarding and deeply satisfying musical experience.

Track Listing: CD1: Background Music; You Don't Know What Love Is; April; Kary's Trance; Subconscious Lee; Back Home; Blues By Lester; You Stepped Out Of A Dream; Lennie Bird. CD2: Just Friends; Little Willie Leaps; Old Folks; Au Privave; Wow; Kary's Trance; Foolin' Myself; Sound-Lee; Chi-Chi; Two Part Invention No.1, Allegro; Two Not One; Darn That Dream. CD3: 317 East 32nd Street; Two Part Invention No.13, Allegro Tranquillo; April; Everything Happens To Me; Blues In G Flat; After You've Gone; The Song Is You; Lennie Bird; It's You Or No One; God Bless The Child; The Way You Look Tonight; Without A Song; Be My Love. CD4: You Don't Know What Love Is; Lennie Bird; Confirmation; I Can't Give You Anything But Love; Without A Song; Just One Of Those Things; All The Things You Are; I Should Care; The More I See You; When You're Smiling; Taking A Chance On Love; Little Willie Leaps; Everytime We Say Goodbye; I Want To Be Happy.

Personnel: Warne Marsh: tenor sax; Lee Konitz: alto sax; Ole Kock Hansen: piano; Dave Cliff: guitar; Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen: bass; Peter Ind: bass; Alex Riel: drums; Sven-Erik Nørregard: drums; Alan Lewitt: drums.

Title: Two Not One | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Storyville Records

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