While Whitney Balliett coined the phrase "sound of surprise" to describe jazz, it also pretty well sums up the entire career of Lee Konitz, whose fluid, dynamic alto has been a constant source of inspiration, distinction, and clarity. This effort teams him with such empathetic instrumental foils as Ted Brown John Abercrombie Marc Johnson and Joey Baron, who are superb rhythmic navigators, plotting interesting paths for Konitz with metered maps of their own drafting. Brown, a quite literate tenor saxophonist much in the style of old Konitz confrere Warne Marsh, has never had much use for the music business, and is rarely heard anymore. But he drops in here, shining on four cuts. The loose, freewheeling "Hi Beck" finds Brown and Konitz in unison, then counterpointed on heads and tails, with Baron tastefully trading eights in between. They play individual lines during the course of the ballad "Soddy & Bowl" but are firmly welded together for "Thingin'," the now-obligatory Konitz adaptation of "All the Things You Are." With Abercrombie, who is much more reserved and less affected, they do a crisp bossa line of "Mr. 88," the swinging bopper "Friendlee," and "Crumbles," a good swinger with upper-register melody. The bluesy "Bits & Pieces" is randomly tossed about, as Johnson drops out and then saunters back in with a solo, as does the roiling Baron. The famous "Subconsciouslee" finds each member playing by himself, then together, then with solos and rhythmic backup. Baron is really head and shoulders above most drummers; his dynamic concept consistently commands attention. Yet another fine recording from Konitz, this adds to an already immense discography that seems to get broader and deeper as it lengthens.
AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos