Lee Konitz

Star Eyes, Hamburg 1983

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Despite the many recordings Lee Konitz has made either as a leader or as a sideman -- they number well over 100 -- there is no date, with possible exceptions of Motion and Lone-Lee, that can touch this live duet setting for breaking new ground. Given his apprenticeship with Lennie Tristano, Konitz is well-known for his melodic improvising and his ability to re-conceptualize a tune. But what happens here, with Martial Solal's dramatic, often theatrical style of piano playing, is the extension of Konitz's own abilities to visualize inherently what is possible within a given framework. What happens on a standard like "Body and Soul" is truly startling: Solal creates a nearly orchestral backdrop of the tune's harmonic and melodic architecture, and Konitz goes looking not for another way to state it, but for something in it to move out onto the ledge of. For Konitz, on this date, the place in a tune's harmonic and melodic framework where it was most recognizable became the point of departure without any knowledge of where he would end up. Solal would carry his lines further out to lunch while remaining within the meter and rhythmic parameters of the original. But given the nearly inconceivable dexterity and musical prowess at work in Solal's playing, even these were altered while retaining their essence. On Ray Noble's "Cherokee," which closes the set, a true anthem of bebop, the pair goes deep into the tune's bluesed-out root and drags from it a skittering skein of multiple harmonies and incandescent intervals where Konitz's melodic sensibilities change the somewhat aggressive nature of the tune and make it swing along a track where its melody is turned inside out; three new skittering skeins of lyrical improvisation are introduced to Solal who structures them vertically and hands them back to Konitz to take even further before returning eventually with a radically altered but nonetheless intact version of the tune, with Solal restating the original melody and harmony to keep it honest. It's quite honestly the finest live recording of Lee Konitz that exists.

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