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Lee Konitz Quartet Uptown

On March 21st, 2009, Lee Konitz was improvising at Creole Restaurant, Third Avenue at 116th Street in Harlem’s Barrio.

Mickey Bass intro’ed the Quartet, as part of his Brownstone Entertainment Complex’s "Jazz Legacy Series," beginning with a joke not worth repeating. Mr. Konitz responded by telling one of his own about a guy at a bar who ordered three scotches...I wish he had announced his first tune instead. Musicians take note: Before we heard the first note he blew gently into the mouthpiece for a few breaths, fingering something without sound, then moved his head forward to create one of the most recognizable breathy sounds to emanate from an alto saxophone.

Recognizable as "How Deep is the Ocean," after a few bars the trio joined creating a swing beat as the words played out in my head until pianist Dan Tepper improvised for a few choruses. Lee Konitz returned playing a parallel pattern his lower tones and brassy vibrato still there as is his distinct upper register vibrato like wine - dry rather than sweet. It was called "Cool" when he was with Miles Davis.

Nodding to the pianist, Dan Tepper began his feature which after a few bars Mr. Konitz interjected a strong bop intro to "Out of Nowhere." Having referenced Charlie Parker the T-Shirt worn by drummer Rashied Ali became a visual reminder. While string bassist Jeremy Stratton soloed Lee Konitz sat (he’s now 81 with silver hair) a disciple of Lennie Tristano and cohort of Gill Evans. Behind the musicians through the open brown curtains we are able to watch the hangers out, cocked baseball caps, some members sporting SBARTANZ club jackets waiting to host tonight’s Meet & Greet DJ at midnight.

Without announcement the piano trio began a unmelodic verse, Konitz waited, then as if playing the last few bars he improvised spontaneously on "Alone Together," continuing with long compositional lines filled with interesting turns of phrase. If one is not particularly adept at bop tunes one would be at a loss until his melody becomes obvious.

Call Creole’s Kevin Walter’s to discover who and when will be in the "Jazz Legacy Series". Reservations suggested, (212) 876-8838.

Dan Kassell
Member, Jazz Journalist Association
All Rights Reserved

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Lee Konitz Quartet
  • Subtitle: Spontaneous Improvisation
  • Venue: Creole Restaurant
  • City State Country: Harlem, NY
Dan Kassell

Dan Kassell expands his curiosity by attending concerts, conventions, lectures and movies to take note of the History of Jazz from the indigenous Caribes in the Caribbean to Algiers New Orleans, Chicago and New York. As a member of the Jersey Jazz Society since 1972 he's witnessed musicians who learned from jazz's founders. Reviews also appear in AllAboutJazz.com, Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com and historically in AllAboutJazz-New York, Mississippi Rag or Jersey Jazz since 1972.

First inspired by Thomas "Fats" Waller playing "Your Feet's Too Big," Benny Goodman's 1938 Carnegie Hall Concert, Louis Armstrong solos, Duke Ellington's Famous Orchestra and Bob Wilber with Marty Gross and Kenny Davern's Soprano Summit he's also became fascinated by the spontaneous improvisation of Free Jazz while working on publicity for Chico Freeman.

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