A Living Legend Owns the Stage
In the anticipation leading up to the show Saturday night at The Regattabar Jazz Club, I was a little disappointed to hear how many of my musical colleagues had absolutely no idea who Lee Konitz is. Seriously? He basically wrote the book on cool jazz and added quite a lot to the chapter on bebop, too! Playing with greats such as Lennie Tristano, Stan Kenton, Warne Marsh, and yes, Miles Davis, too, Lee’s influences have hit many people far and wide including notables like Anthony Braxton who wrote pieces and dedicated albums to Konitz (and Marsh). Even at the age of 86, it is evident why so many were influenced by him and why jazz got a new sound with his music. My guest and I both agreed; the concert was one giant display of how to correctly phrase lines on the saxophone. One might remember some players for their tone, their compositions, their dazzling solos, or their personality, etc., but for Lee, you remember his phrasing. Be it simple or complex, every line came out very specifically, and each gave the listener a new taste of something they may have not heard before. Adding even more to the show was the interplay between the musicians. Often the pianist (Dan Tepfer) would riff off of what Lee had just stated resulting in a really cool musical conversation on stage. And speaking of musicians, the rhythm section consisting of Jeremy Stratton on bass and the great George Schuller on drums were perhaps the greatest rhythm section anyone could have ever experienced! I’m not sure if this is who Lee works with regularly, but Lee is sure one who has worked with almost everyone. Just take a look at his impressive recent recordings in which he works along side people like Brad Mehldau, Charlie Haden, Bill Frisell, Paul Motian, and others. An interesting observation with this particular show was that most of it was just a duo between Lee and Dan. The rhythm section rarely got breaks, leaving the solos for the two of them. Often the breaks floated around from one to another instead of distinct starts and stops.
This was truly a great show and I’m sure everyone in the audience was thrilled and happy with it. One person even got a request played! Check out some of his discography if he was a new artist to you. You’ll find many gems!
~Matt Scutchfield (contemporary composer and instrumentalist at Berklee College of Music)