New book on Lee Konitz is dedicated to Lennie

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jostber
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New book on Lee Konitz is dedicated to Lennie

Postby jostber » Tue Jun 12, 2007 11:10 am


Marv Friedenn
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Postby Marv Friedenn » Wed Oct 10, 2007 10:08 pm

Lennie met Lee in 1943: "I was playing at the Winking Pub in Chicago, and this kid comes up and asks to sit in. He was playing tenor saxophone then, and he was horrible, atrocious." (AN UNSUNG CAT, Safford Chamberlain, p.50). Six years later the Tristano sextet, which included Lee, Warne and Billy, played a concert in New York at Carnegie Hall, sharing the bill with Miles Davis, Sonny Stitt, Stan Getz, Bud Powell and Charlie Parker. Up fifth after Sarah Vaughan, the sextet played You Go To My Head and Sax Of A Kind. On Sax Of A Kind Lee outblew everyone in the show including Bird. What had happened to turn an atrocity into a prodigy? The answer in two words is: Lennie Tristano.

If you know Lennie's work and you listen to Lee play on the early Tristano recordings, Lennie's influence is so pervasive that it might as well be Lennie Tristano on alto. The same with Warne. Warne sounds like Lennie Tristano on tenor! Likewise with Billy: Lennie Tristano on guitar! (Six Of One Kind!) So, if as Lee admits in CONVERSATIONS ON THE IMPROVISER'S ART, Lennie saved him from becoming a Bird imitator, it was because Lee had already become a replica of Tristano.

That's not a put down. Once we set aside commercial labeling (where you're either an original or a cover), and regard imitation as an act of love (whether it's Sonny Stitt or Frank Morgan imitating Bird, or Lee or Warne imitating Lennie, or Brahms imitating Beethoven, or Glenn Gould imitating Bach), the issue becomes clear. If you're lucky enough to have the hardware (that is, the talent) to imitate a model, and the software (that is, the heart) to respond personally to your model, then as soon as you, the respondent, express your independence by preferring to imitate one phrase rather than another, and to mix and match phrases drawn from other models, then gradually the correspondence between imitator and model takes on a life of its own. Sonny Stitt doesn't cancel out Frank Morgan because they both take Bird as their model. Each communicates with Bird differently. And that difference implies a world of difference. The same with Warne and Lennie. When Warne played well, he was corresponding with Lennie, telling him how he felt about things. It's by continuing to converse with them that we preserve the lovely dead.

But back to Lee. Lee disappeared into Lennie. When Lee reappeared a few years later anxiously looking for gigs anywhere in the world, he found Lennie padding around the studio in pajamas. The blind man was not about to walk a plank to China! Therefore, Lee would have to go out on his own. The problem was that thanks to Lennie (and to Lee's genius for it) Lee had mastered bitonal improvisation. Unfortunately for Lee, the musician who could play it was as rare as a two-headed snake. So, if Lee was to make himself compatible with other musicians, he'd have to shift down suddenly in concept without stripping the gears. Lee will never admit it, but the car never ran as smoothly after Lennie as with Lennie aboard.

Warne summarizes bitonal harmonic theory in AN UNSUNG CAT, page 60. I apply it to Lee this way. Lee would draw notes from two or more keys and form tonally hybrid intervals which he extended according to the usual inversions and reversions, but now involving quite unusual combinations. But it was his uncompromising sense of overall unity derived from the standard ballad but applied atonally, that provided sufficient harmonic compression to convert what otherwise would have been brashly harsh intervals into lyrically poignant ones. In other words, Lee succeeded in composing bitonal or atonal melodies with all the romanticism of the standard ballad intact but with none of the sentimentality. Lennie had worked it all out and taught it to Lee. Lee wanted to sell it to the world but Lennie wasn't traveling. And without the prospect of Lennie there surfing the maelstrom, Lee would be a fish out of water.

Lee doesn't say any of this in the book. His silence speaks volumes.
Last edited by Marv Friedenn on Fri Oct 19, 2007 11:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

jostber
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Postby jostber » Fri Oct 19, 2007 6:42 am

A groovy analysis! Lee Konitz is a sharp observer, and it is always interesting to read or hear interview with him.

Marv Friedenn
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To Paul Bley

Postby Marv Friedenn » Fri Nov 23, 2007 1:35 pm

Paul Bley remarks on page 190, "Fuck the audience. The listeners are privileged audience participants, with no relationship to anything except the fact that they're there for moral support." Paul, the audience is there to judge whether you're full of shit or not. Because obviously you can't tell.

jostber
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Postby jostber » Mon Jan 14, 2008 4:56 am


Marv Friedenn
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Postby Marv Friedenn » Wed Jan 16, 2008 3:54 pm

Jostber,

I read the above referenced review. Consensus there is that Lee played better and better the older he got. Have I gone crazy to think he played worse and worse? Lee performed in L.A. about two years ago at The Jazz Bakery. A duet, bass and sax. I've heard more engaging sounds come out of my electric razor. What's happening, man?

Marv

jostber
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Postby jostber » Thu Jan 17, 2008 4:31 am

Marv Friedenn wrote:Jostber,

I read the above referenced review. Consensus there is that Lee played better and better the older he got. Have I gone crazy to think he played worse and worse? Lee performed in L.A. about two years ago at The Jazz Bakery. A duet, bass and sax. I've heard more engaging sounds come out of my electric razor. What's happening, man?

Marv


You must have a great razor! :)

I think Konitz has released a lot of great albums through the years, like this one:

Image

The concert you attended might have not been the right place, right time?

- Jostein

Marv Friedenn
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Postby Marv Friedenn » Tue Jan 29, 2008 8:27 am

Hi Jostber,

Kenny Wheeler reproduces here (Angel Song) the abstract and languid Miles Davis of Sketches of Spain (1959-1960). But I think in Sketches and Bitches Brew (1969) Miles did Kenny and world music a disservice by generally disregarding the rhythm section (Red Garland, Paul Chambers, Joe Jones when I heard Miles in Boston in 1959) that formerly had provided a launching pad for Miles’s abstract flights. Originally, the idea was that while Red, Paul and Joe brought the rhythm to a white heat, Miles would float high above time and the world creating pure musical forms. Suddenly the sky would crack and Miles would dive precipitously into time and tear it to pieces. It was great musical theater! Unfortunately Miles bequeathed to his successors the atmospheric scenery without the riveting drama.

About Lee, let me say that in the backslapping, toe-tapping, fingerpopping 1950s when America’s future wagged its tail like a doggie in a window and pessimism was grounds for treason, how astonishing it was to hear Lee Konitz, in collaboration with arranger Bill Russo and band leader Stan Kenton, transform the standard Lover Man (Lee’s theme song while with Kenton) into a concerto for alto sax and jazz orchestra! Lee took a romantic ballad meant to depict the loneliness of a girl dying for love and to get laid and transmuted it by dint of pure lyrical power into an expression of archetypal bereavement. In his hands, and in those of his collaborators, jazz became high art.

The few minutes of solo time granted to Lee on this CD, however, scarcely does justice to Lee’s ability to set against the soldier-boy mentality of the 1950s and beyond and the camp-following mentality of the men of commerce, the decency of pure art.

Marv Friedenn
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Postby Marv Friedenn » Wed Jan 30, 2008 8:30 am

Last night I dreamed I heard a four-track overdub of Lee, just Lee, Lee only, ownlee, laying down the lines and putting together a saxophone quartet. It was beautiful! Sad but stately like Bartok's 6th Quartet. As far as you know has Lee produced any overdubbed polyphony of himself?

jostber
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Postby jostber » Fri Feb 01, 2008 4:42 am

Marv Friedenn wrote:Last night I dreamed I heard a four-track overdub of Lee, just Lee, Lee only, ownlee, laying down the lines and putting together a saxophone quartet. It was beautiful! Sad but stately like Bartok's 6th Quartet. As far as you know has Lee produced any overdubbed polyphony of himself?


That sounds like a good dream! I haven't heard of such a recording. This one got some duets with other players:

http://www.answers.com/topic/the-lee-ko ... ertainment

This record from 1971 has Konitz in the Tristano groove with pianist Sal Mosca:

http://www.answers.com/topic/spirits-ja ... ertainment


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