Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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KONITZ, Lee

(b 13 October 1927, Chicago) Alto sax. Gigged locally, toured with Claude Thornhill '47-8, worked with Miles Davis '48-50. He visited Scandinavia, worked for Stan Kenton for year, led his own groups; but became close to Lennie Tristano and turned down work with name groups to stay in what was in retrospect the avant-garde of the white school of 'cool jazz' of the '50s: with Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Gerry Mulligan, Jimmy Giuffre, Warne Marsh and a handful of others one of the greatest and best-known of this school, but also perhaps 'cooler' than any of them: his musical intelligence, his languid style and the harmonic influence of Tristano resulted in a unique voice with tonal beauty at its centre, influenced by Charlie Parker but not dominated by him, unlike many other altos. Recorded with Tristano '49; own early sessions '49-53 (some made in Paris) on Prestige included Young Lee, compilation reissue Ezz-thetic; also with Mulligan quartet on World Pacific '53; own quartet in Boston '54-5 on Storyville. Recorded in Cologne '56 playing alto, tenor and baritone saxes, with reedmen Hans Koller (b 12 Feb. '21, Vienna, d there 22 Dec. 2003; also influenced by Tristano), Lars Gullin and others. On Atlantic: LP with Marsh '55, Inside Hi-Fi '56, Worthwhile Konitz '56 (Japan only), The Real Lee Konitz '57. On Verve: Lee Konitz Quintet, quartet Tranquility '57, An Image '58 with strings arranged by Bill Russo, You And Lee '59 with brass section, Lee Konitz Meets Jimmy Giuffre '59: with reed section including Hal McKusick on alto, Giuffre on baritone, Marsh and Ted Brown on tenor, solos mostly by Konitz, this album with its rich reed sounds was one of the most beautiful of the decade. Lee Konitz Meets Jimmy Giuffre '96 on Verve reissues four LPs on two CDs including the title album, An Image, Ralph Burns's Free Forms (with Konitz) and Giuffre's '59 set with Baden-Baden strings. Lee Konitz At The Half Note '59 on Verve remained unissued until '96, the two-CD set another reunion with Marsh, with Bill Evans on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass, Paul Motian on drums. NYC quartet recordings '60-61 issued on Wave UK; trio set Motion '61 on Verve. He concentrated on teaching on West Coast '62-4, toured Europe as solo '65-6. Solo 'Blues For Bird' at Charlie Parker Tenth Memorial Concert on Limelight '65 followed by Modern Jazz Compositions From Haiti '66: compositions of Gerald Merceron played by a quartet on a GM label.

An ingenious teacher, Konitz often used tapes by mail for lessons; in '65 he made a Music Minus One LP of alto duets, overdubbing himself on some tracks and leaving others open for the student. The Lee Konitz Duets '67 on Milestone used overdubbing on one track, with Konitz playing alto and baritone; on five sets of variations on 'Alone Together' he played tenor and electric alto in some places. Zo-Ko-Ma '68 on MPS incl. guitarist Attila Zoller (b 13 June '27, Hungary) and Albert Mangelsdorff. Many other LPs included Altissimo '73 on Japanese Philips with four altos: Konitz, Gary Bartz, Charlie Mariano, Jackie McLean; solo Lone-Lee '74, I Concentrate On You '74 (duo with bassist Red Mitchell), Windows '75 (duo with pianist Hal Garper) all on Steeplechase; other duos with piano: Spirits '71 on Milestone with Sal Mosca (b 27 April 1927, NY; d 28 July 2007, White Plains NY), Duplicity '77 on Horo with Martial Solal. Other LPs on European labels: European Episode '68, Stereokonitz '68, Lee Konitz Quartet Jazz à Juan '74, Oleo '75, Jazz Confronto 32 '76, London Concert '76, Yes, Yes, Nonet '79 with Jimmy Knepper, two LPs on MPS '79-80, High Jingo '82 on Japanese Atlas, Toot Sweet '82 on Owl with Michel Petrucciani. Also Peacemeal '69, Satori '74 on Milestone; three volumes of the Warne Marsh/Lee Konitz Quintet live in Paris '75 on Storyville; Chet Baker And Lee Konitz In Concert '74 on India Navigation with Michael Moore on bass, Beaver Harris on drums, Konitz vocals on two tracks; Meets Warne Marsh Again '76 on Pausa; quintet Figure And Spirit '76 with Ted Brown on Progressive; Tenorlee on Choice, Pyramid on Improvising Artists, Lee Konitz Nonet And Quintet on Chiaroscuro, all '77 (duet Meeting At Delphi '79 with Martial Solal was still unreleased in mid '98); Live At Laren '79 and Ideal Scene '86 on Soul Note. Songs Of The Stars c'88 on Jazz House was a duo with pianist John Taylor, commissioned for a Pirelli calendar. Albums on Philology, MisiDisc, Muse with European co-stars; Lullabye Of Birdland '91 on Candid with Barry Harris, Calvin Hill and Leroy Williams. He won the Jazzpar award '92, made Leewise on Storyville with the Jazzpar All Star Nonet directed by Jens Sondergaard; Rhapsody had Helen Merrill, Joe Lovano, Bill Frisell, Giuffre, many other guests; Rhapsody II was more of the same, with Sheila Jordan and many others, both '93 on Evidence, each track a different setting but no space wasted. Lovely Brazilian Rhapsody on Venus '95 had a six-piece Brazilian band; trio Thingin same year on hat Art with pianist Don Friedman and guitarist Zoller is nothing but fun, the Tristano inspiration still there. Four CDs on Philology included duos with pianists: Gershwin In 12 Keys with Franco D'Andrea, Italian Ballads Vol. 1 with Stefano Battaglia, Breaths And Whispers: Homage To Alexandr Skrjabin with Umberto Petrin; and a superb anthology of tracks '55-80 From Newport To Nice. Popular around the world, Konitz cannot make an uninteresting record.