Lee Konitz


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On the alto saxophone, Lee Konitz has been an undisputed master, and now in his seventies, he shows no signs of slowing down. His fresh, rambling melodicism is ever-present and strong. For this recording, he is inspired and summarily has the favor returned by his excellent Netherlands-based rhythm section of pianist Bert Van den Brink, bassist Hein Van de Geyn, and drummer Hans van Oosterhout. They play with keen spirit, telepathic notions, and musical brilliance behind the always sharp Konitz. It's also important to note that this session was done in one sitting. Of the 11 tracks, nine are standards, including the obligatory version of "All the Things You Are" that Konitz reharmonizes and calls "Thingin'." This "thing" has Konitz laying out until the second bridge chorus, well past Van de Geyn's bass solo. The majority of the pieces are done in easy swing fashion, and there are many passages where just piano and alto stand alone (the intro of "Yesterdays," the entire "Moonlight in Vermont") where Van den Brink hits a stride mood while Konitz touches on stratospheric high tones, or the section right before the coda during a lighter than usual "Cherokee," the rhythm dropping out and the other two marveling at each other's wares. "Lover Man" is done as an easy waltz but has a distinct sense of urgency, with the trio, especially Van de Geyn digging in, and "East of the Sun" is a good swinger that kicks off the program. The title track is a free bop improv with loose, melodic associations and signposts that are fun to listen to, while Rentaro Taki's "Kojo No Tsuki" has a steady Oriental feel accented by Asiatic rays of refracted light trying to somewhat illuminate a darker mood. Van den Brink goes solo with wit and charm, not to mention a high degree of skill for Cole Porter's "I Love You," and the trio (without Konitz) on the ballad "Spring Fever" more than proves their mettle as improvisers and staunch jazzmen. Of the dozens of fine recordings from Konitz over the past decade, this just might be his best. There a spontaneous, smoldering combustion and consistency the Van den Brink trio provides him that cannot be denied. It's quite a pleasurable listening experience, and another high-water mark in the continuing career of one of the jazz world's premier icons.

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