Lee Konitz / Brad Mehldau / Charlie Haden / Paul Motian

Live at Birdland

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"Boring" feels like such a pejorative description. It's better to call this all-star summit conference of sleepy time jazz players, led by alto saxophonist Lee Konitz and including pianist Brad Mehldau and bassist Charlie Haden, in addition to Paul Motian on drums, "stately," "refined," or "relaxed". The fact that the tunes -- all standards -- are virtually indistinguishable from each other, and go on at least five, and in one case, ten minutes too long in order to make room for just one more lugubrious bowed bass solo from Haden or one more slow-motion Mehldau keyboard interlude, should not be taken as prima facie evidence of the emptiness of this sort of pseudo-event, all too common in New York jazz clubs. After all, the live audience eats it up, as can clearly be heard. But is this album of any value to jazz as a whole? It is not. This is the sound of three men whose reputations rest on work done decades earlier, and one younger man whose reputation is difficult to explain, delicately tiptoeing through six pieces, some of which have been recorded hundreds if not thousands of times already. It is as far as possible from the sound of jazz moving forward, or preserving the creative vitality that is supposedly the heart of the genre. If all you want is to hear four accomplished musicians playing standards, this album provides an hour's worth of that. If you want more from jazz, you're out of luck.

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