Cool jazz altoist Lee Konitz has another strong effort with his Chesky Records debut, Parallels. Backed by a group of gifted musicians, he explores both classic and new compositions, taking advantage of the extra freedom to solo in a piano-less quartet. Young lion Mark Turner's tenor is a fine complement to the veteran's sound on several cuts. Parallels, like all of Konitz's music, emphasizes feeling and spontaneity while finding what he calls the music's "possibilities to be creative".
The program begins and concludes with a classic composition. First is an inventive arrangement of the standard "How Deep is the Ocean". Following nice solos from Lee and guitarist Peter Bernstein, the quartet finishes with Lee, Peter and bassist Steve Gilmore trading bars with drummer Bill Goodwin. Special guest Mark Turner joins in on the Lee Konitz classic "Subconscious Lee" as the two saxophonists play off each other's ideas to end the session.
Konitz helped change the jazz world forever as part of Miles Davis' Birth of the Cool Nonet. Parallels shows a veteran artist still full of creative ideas working with new compositions and new talent. "For Hans", one of the new tunes Konitz brought to the date, shows off his impressive compositional skills. He and Turner spontaneously collaborated on "Eyes", the most experimental composition on the release. Peter Bernstein adds some hip Wes Montgomery style licks while comping the horns and soloing..
The group returns to classics with an interesting rendition of the standard "Skylark". Mark joins in again on "Palo Alto", a Konitz tune written during his association with fellow Chicagoan and mentor, Lennie Tristano. It's no accident that Turner's sound blends so well with the group. Turner is influenced by Wayne Marsh, one of Lee's old stable mates in the 1950's Tristano sextet.
The heart and soul of the album is Lee's mentor, Lennie Tristano. "LT" is a new composition dedicated to the pianist with an appropriately long, meandering melody. Then Konitz and Turner jam together with wonderful give and take, as the band swings on "317 East 32nd", a Tristano original.
Lee Konitz has always been an artist who defined himself and his own direction in playing. In the late 1940's, he was one of the few alto players who did not closely emulate Charlie Parker. His free improvisations with Lennie Tristano pre-date the recordings of free jazz artists like Ornette Coleman by nearly a decade. On Parallels, his approach is just as fresh as it was then. Konitz sums it up in the liner notes he wrote himself, "Someone invites me to join in for a session, as in this case, and lo and behold, some nice sounds ensue - My! My!"