[Dixielandjazz] Lee Konitz & Louis Armstrong

Steve Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Wed Jun 27 06:26:37 PDT 2007

Often, we OKOMers are heard to opine that the modern jazz guys don't
appreciate the roots of jazz. (as we define them).

Check out paragraph 5 below. Wish I'd been there to hear the 2 horn (alto
sax + bass clarinet) unison Armstrong solo on "Struttin With Some Barbecue"
with Joe Lovanno blowing Sop Sax counterpoint around it.

Also wish I'd heard the string reinforced nonet. There's something about
jazz and strings . . . (Shaw, Parker, Davern, Konitz et al)

Steve Barbone

Stirring Up Sound Waves and Giving Them New Shape

NY TIMES - By BEN RATLIFF - June 27, 2007

Lee Konitz¹s alto-saxophone sound grows deeper and darker. He will turn 80
in October, and in the recent stages of his career, playing more slowly and
investing swing feeling into floppy, balloonlike notes, his sound has gotten
so big and dreamy that it¹s all you feel and hear; what he¹s playing ‹ names
of songs and their pedigree ‹ doesn¹t matter much.

At Zankel Hall on Monday, in a rigorous and semiretrospective show for the
JVC Jazz Festival New York occasioned by his birthday, Mr. Konitz gave
plenty of his sound, but also loads of compositions. Some were written with
the musician and arranger Ohad Talmor: Mr. Konitz faxed him written lines
that Mr. Talmor turned into smartly expanded music for nonet or big band or
soloists with string quartet.

Mr. Konitz played in all those setups on Monday ‹ with his New Nonet, the
Spring String Quartet from Linz, Austria, and the Orquestra Jazz de
Matosinhos from Porto, Portugal ‹ and yet he was always ultimately by
himself, breathing his own air.

Since the late 1940s Mr. Konitz has practiced the bebop device of writing
squirrelly new melodic lines over the chord changes of familiar American
songs. Those lines ‹ like ³Thingin,² over ³All the Things You Are² ‹ sound
like improvisations themselves, with run-together phrases that end in
midair. This was expected from him on Monday, and delivered, as was some
counterpoint improvising between two horns, which he famously did with Warne
Marsh long ago. (His foil at Zankel was Ted Brown, another old colleague of
Mr. Konitz¹s, who may have the lightest and quietest tenor-saxophone sound
in the world.)

And Mr. Konitz clearly admires some of the codified, notated history of
jazz: in his version of Louis Armstrong¹s ³Struttin¹ With Some Barbecue,² he
played the original Armstrong solo in unison with Mr. Talmor, while Joe
Lovano played soprano-saxophone lines around it.

But Mr. Konitz is still able to erase context and preconceptions, and more
or less blow your mind. On Monday he called for ³Pretty Peace,² a melody he
wrote based on ³Body and Soul.² Mr. Talmor arranged the song for the string
quartet, and structurally it used the trick of slow revelation: if you
hadn¹t been alerted, you might not have recognized its inspiration until the
end, when the lines of ³Body and Soul² became clear. But that felt

Here were the four string players, as well as Mr. Konitz, Mr. Talmor on bass
clarinet and the drummer Paul Motian, who played almost entirely on cymbals
with nylon brushes. The string arrangement was unobtrusive, and its glassy
clarity set off Mr. Konitz¹s breathy, behind-the-beat phrases as something
special; then the strings dropped out altogether, and Mr. Konitz and Mr.
Motian took turns at a kind of pure improvising, seemingly working from
scratch, even if that meant stopping for five seconds before they figured
out what to do next. Mr. Konitz ended with an unaccompanied coda, full of
strange pathos. He may not sustain speed for long in his improvisations, but
he still plays elusively and melodically, lodging wobbly notes in a sure
groove, backing away from easy resolutions.

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