Lee Konitz: The Complete 1956 Quartets

Konitz's avoidance of the near-ubiquitous influence of Charlie Parker and his ability on the tenor are both exemplified here


Lee Konitz was one of the few alto soloists of his generation not to be overwhelmed by the genius of Charlie Parker. His pure sound, almost totally free of vibrato, was a thing of beauty and he was just as fluent on his seldom-used tenor. (Here, Close Your Eyes, Kary’s Trance, You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To, Star Eyes, I Remember You and All Of Me all demonstrate his impressive command of the larger horn.)

These tracks would be ideal candidates for one of the more difficult blindfold tests. Whatever the instrument, he creates long, inventive lines with freshly minted ideas that don’t necessarily fall conveniently under the fingers. He even once recorded on baritone with Lars Gullin where he more than held his own with the Swedish maestro.

The first seven titles benefit from the subtle promptings of the great Jimmy Rowles. This was one of their few recordings together but they were to be reunited on a notable duet album titled Tenorlee in January 1977 (Candid CHCD 71019).

Just like his mentor Lennie Tristano and others from that school, Konitz found his inspiration almost exclusively from the songbook repertoire or on standard-based contrafacts like All Of Me (Straitaway) and Indiana (Midway), both heard here. The blues Cork’N’Bib and Nesuhi’s Instant are two fine examples of the 12-bar form he seldom used.

There are some 1957 titles recorded at Pittsburgh’s Midway Lounge here, featuring Don Ferrara on Pennies In Minor and Sweet And Lovely. Far more of the Midway engagement is available on The Real Konitz (Collectables Col-CD 6370). Konitz considered Ferrara to be a “hell of a trumpeter” and like all Tristano students Ferrara had his own highly individual sound. Probably the best example of their work together is to be found on Very Cool (Gambit Records 69253). Among other gems the horns perform a faultless transcription of Charlie Parker’s four choruses from his 1945 Billie’s Bounce solo.

CD1: (1) The Nearness Of You; Like Someone In Love; Don’t Explain; Some Of These Days; Close Your Eyes; You’re Driving Me Crazy; Don’t Blame Me; (2) Sweet And Lovely; Cork’N’Bib; Everything Happens To Me; Kary’s Trance; (3) Indiana; You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To (61.21)
CD2: Star Eyes; Nesuhi’s Instant; I Remember You; All Of Me; (4) Straightaway; Foolin’ Myself; You Go To My Head; My Melancholy Baby; (5) Pennies In Minor; Sweet And Lovely; (4) Easy Living; Midway (58.21)
Konitz (as, ts) with:
(1) Jimmy Rowles (p); Leroy Vinnegar (b); Shelly Manne (d). Los Angeles, 21 December 1956.
(2) Billy Bauer (elg); Arnold Fishkin (b); Dick Scott (d). New York, 16 October 1956.
(3) Sal Mosca (p); Peter Ind (b); Dick Scott (d). New York, 26 September 1956.
(4) as (3). The Midway Lounge, Pittsburgh, 15 February 1957.
(5) as (4) add Don Ferrara (t).
Essential Jazz Classics EJC 55773