Lee Konitz

Haiku

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This 1994 quintet recording of Lee Konitz and drummer Jerry Granelli with pianist Andreas Schmidt, bass clarinetist Rudi Mahall, and vocalist Sayumi Yoshida is a startling exercise in understatement, texture, elegance, and adventure. Konitz has become a legend for his ability to play only the necessary notes with a perfect sense of musical dynamics. He creates drama by un-creating it. His seemingly laid-back approach to his horn has made him one of the true legends of melodic improvisation. There are 13 tracks on Haiku, and all of them examine the melodic aspects of improvisation and its various approaches to execution. Most pieces are 3-4 minutes in length, with none over five and a half minutes. "Hi Lee" is an inversion of one of the pieces on Lone-Lee, or perhaps many of them, while "Geraldo" uses touchstones from "'Round Midnight" between the horns to create a scalar system of short intervals that feel like poetically metered lines punctuated by minimal percussion to dent segmentation and the introduction of new phrases built upon the same harmonic figures. This serves as an introduction to "Ittle Onk Usic," which uses themes from four different Monk tunes to extrapolate the rhythmic and harmonic contexts of them for the purpose of grafting them onto an improvisation that swings its way through the center and unifies them all without forcing the issue or being obvious. The most beautiful piece on the album is the five-minute ballad "The Princess," which features Konitz singing sweetly, though the alto melody is out of time and space and accented by three- and four-note pastoral clusters by Schmidt, slipping in between his slowly, effortlessly unfolding lines, answered only by the occasional restatement of one of them by Mahall. The sheer lyricism in this piece is breathtakingly beautiful and full of the kind of innovation Konitz has continued to make his hallmark for the past 50 years. Brilliant.

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