Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Lee Konitz: An Image

Lee Konitz with Strings: An Image (reissued on Lee Konitz Meets Jimmy Giuffre)

Last semester I took a class about “West Coast/Cool/Third Stream.“ The class led me to revisit this album recorded back in 1958. Although there are a few standards (“Round Midnight,” “I Got It Bad” and “What’s New”) on the album they don’t fall into the cheesy “jazz with strings” category, there is the three-part “Music For Alto Saxophone and Strings” (this does incorporate the rhythm section) and the seven-part “An Image Of Man” (just Konitz and strings – including Billy Bauer). The album has quite a sparse feel, openness to it... uncluttered. Bill Russo’s writing throughout keeps things interesting and Lee sounds great on it - I’d forgotten how great... very lyrical and the recording captures his tone wonderfully. The Russo/Konitz combination is a good one  - they both have plenty of common ground. Aside from both being students of Tristano, when the two were with Kenton they used to hang out listening to string quartets from Bartok, Debussy and Ravel. This album made a big impact on me when I first heard it (around 1999/2000) – it had been ages since I listened to it and I’m glad I got back into it.

While I’m on the subject of Konitz, a few of his album featured in the “The Top 50 Alto Sax Recordings of All Time” from Jazz Times (June) with Motion, Live at The Half Note, Subconscious-Lee making the list. Konitz was also singled out by Phil Woods (Jazz Nocturne), Jaleel Shaw & Miguel Zenon (Motion), Grace Kelly (Live at Half Note) and JayBeckenstein (The Lee Konitz Duets) in their lists of favourite alto sax albums.

There was no place for Konitz in Down Beat’s “80 Coolest Things In Jazz Today”... not even in the “Living Masters” category.

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