A great player, beautifully recorded ...
This tight-knit band, recorded back in 1988 for MusicMasters, proves as noteworthy now in this Nimbus re-release as it did twenty years ago. It was Konitz with rhythm section, if that’s not too derogatory way to describe the superb trio of Fred Hersch, Mike Richmond and Adam Nussbaum. Konitz as ever proves a musician of fluid creativity, of harmonic sophistication, and tonal eloquence. His interaction with Nussbaum on Round and Round and Round proves an especially creative example of nudging and time keeping. Hersch cooks on Luv where Konitz sounds positively exultant. The keening Lester Young influence is most apparent on Nancy.
Konitz plays around with the tempo of Boo Doo, playfully and creatively increasing or decreasing the rhythmic attack with verve - abetted by Richmond’s vibrant bass playing. As one can see each track contains rhythmic, harmonic or melodic points of difference and interest quite sufficient to keep one fascinated. Valse Hot is another example of the way that moods and textures are varied, parried, restated and expanded. We find Hersch at his most chordally resplendent here, responding to the deeper textures with some consummate playing.
Konitz always manages to keep the familiar, the expected and most certainly the clichéd at bay. In Lover Man we find him at his fluid, most harmonically allusive and never giving in to the maudlin; not least because he takes a quickish tempo. His melodic variations on Lover Man show how constantly alert he is in his playing, how quicksilver is his musical database, how instant his responses to melodic structures and to the idea of substitutions. Throughout in fact he also proves – if proof were needed – how unaffected he is as a musician but how complex are the structures he builds; a great player, beautifully recorded.
Jonathan Woolf , Musicweb-international.com
Lee Konitz has had a varied career. I first heard him on a 10-inch LP with the Stan Kenton Band called Sketches on Standards: in my opinion one of the finest albums the Kenton Band ever made. Lee’s contribution was significant. He had what at the time was a unique sound and every alto player around had a go at copying him. It is not a sound he uses today, as this album demonstrates, but there are odd glimpses of the sound from years ago.
For some reason, which I find difficult to understand, every piece on the album is in ¾ time: an interesting challenge, but to what point? There are two Konitz originals, the title track and Boo Doo. The majority of the remaining tracks are either standards or jazz standards.
I enjoyed Lee’s playing on this album. I must admit to doubting whether I would, because some of his work which is of the totally free-form variety left me cold and totally bored. Here he benefits from having a good rhythm section; I was particularly impressed with the piano playing of Fred Hersch.
Valse Hot, the Sonny Rollins composition, is particularly successful, which may because it was created to be played in this metre. Many of the tempos chosen are somewhat similar and this does not do much for sustaining interest by the listener, especially as they are all in ¾ tempo.
Bluesette is another good track. Once again the Norman Gimbel/Jean "Toots" Thielemans tune was written to be performed at this tempo in this metre, and it therefore sounds more natural. The star of Giant Steps is without doubt Fred Hersch; his solo is full of invention.
To purchase this album, you need to be a Lee Konitz aficionado and to be fond of improvisations in ¾. I enjoyed hearing it, but doubt it will be a regular on my CD player.
Don Mather, Musicweb-international.com