Lee Konitz: Tenorlee

On this set with Jimmy Rowles and Michael Moore, Konitz aimed to 'just play some tunes' and with similar spontaneity decided to play tenor


First released in 1978, this intriguing album features Konitz (unusually) on tenor. As he explains in a brief note, this set of some of his favourite songs was devoted to the memory of Richie Kamuca who died two days before the second session of the LP was recorded. As producer Gerry Macdonald explains Lee’s intention was “to let the tunes happen without developing lines and playing many choruses”. Two bonus tracks have been added to this reissue.

Producer Gerry Macdonald relates that “Lee’s decision to play tenor was not pre-planned; it just evolved during the first session.” With the support of the ever-inventive Jimmy Rowles and the dependable Michael Moore, Konitz delivers a mixed bag of improvisations: melancholy, introspective and spirited.

On I Remember You, Rowles offers gentle support to Konitz and on Skylark captures the essence of the composition in a relaxed and sensitive introduction. Lee follows with a solemn statement and in his second solo makes his tenor sound uncannily like an alto. Thanks For the Memory is refreshingly sprightlier, with a gently swinging solo from Konitz.

Among the remaining tracks You Are Too Beautiful and Handful Of Stars display the trio at its integrated best. But the real treats are the segued performances of Tenorlee (a Konitz solo) and Lady Be Good, a partial recreation of the famous Basie/Lester 1936 classic small-group recording. Rowles’ “take” on the Count’s famous introductory solo is arguably the high spot of the record, but Konitz is no slouch as a latter-day Pres imitator.

The two bonus tracks feature a gently lilting solo by Lee and appropriate responses from Rowles (The Gypsy) and ’Tis Autumn when unadorned contributions from Lee and Jimmy bring the proceedings to a satisfactory close.

Not perhaps Konitz’s finest hour, but with Rowles’ active participation Tenorlee offers a satisfying illustration of his expressed desire to “just play some tunes”. They did more than that.

I Remember You; Skylark; Thanks For The Memory; You Are Too Beautiful; Handful Of Stars; Autumn Nocturne; Tangerine; Tenorlee (segued to) Lady Be Good; *The Gypsy; *‘Tis Autumn (47.06)
Konitz (ts); Jimmy Rowles (p); Michael Moore (b). New York City, 7 January 1977 & 23 March 1978.
Candid CAN 33372