Knowing Lee

Richie Beirach / Lee Konitz / David Liebman

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Knowing Lee Review

by Ken Dryden

Lee Konitz has been one of the most distinctive stylists on alto sax, blending his lessons with Lennie Tristano and the influence of Charlie Parker into a sound that can't be mistaken for anyone else. His meeting with saxophonist Dave Liebman and pianist Richie Beirach, both of whom also studied with Tristano as young men, is full of surprises, whether they're exploring standards or Konitz's time-tested reworkings of them, or creating brand-new compositions on the spot in the studio. Beirach provides a strong foundation for the two soloists, whose adventurous, inspired solos are anything but predictable. Konitz is primarily heard on alto, with his dry yet swinging tone beautifully complemented by Liebman's poignant soprano sax, especially in the delightful take of "In Your Own Sweet Way." Konitz's familiar "Thingin'" is combined in a medley with its inspiration, "All the Things You Are," with Konitz taking the solo for the first tune and Liebman (on soprano) for the second, as Beirach skillfully accompanies each man. Konitz switches to soprano for several numbers, including the bittersweet ballad "Universal Lament" (co-written with Beirach) and "Migration," an unusual free jazz soprano sax duo improvisation with Liebman, along with a wild soprano sax duet of "Body and Soul" that takes this oft-recorded warhorse into new territory. All three men had long since proven themselves by the time of this 2010 session, which should be considered a highlight of each artist's respective, considerable discographies.

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