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  1. Lee Konitz & The Art Of Taking Your Time

    Actually, when Lew made that remark, which everyone laughed about, he was sort of on the fence about whether it was worth hanging around to see if anything would, in fact, happen. Maybe, maybe not. Like with Sonny Rollins. Sometimes Sonny might play the head of a song 30 times in a row and fail to find a way out into a variation and then another night he might play 40 minutes on Four (Live in Denmark, 1968). The mixture of tedium and enlightenment is the true melody line. Sometimes you stare in utterly soul crushing boredom at the scribblings of a master (to move in visual territory) or listen to Lee Konitz using every ounce of his strength and ability to avoid playing faster. He doesn't want to play faster. He wants to listen to the musicians behind him and avoid "schmaltz" (still bugs me how a nice Jewish kid turns into a fucking devote of Scientology, sheesh Lee) and avoid the kind of cliches he thinks are inevitable when you play faster than you can think. Even though the most exciting moments in his playing are just when that desire for a kind of deliberate abandon gives way to letting his fingers free. Anyway, I still remember that evening with Lee and his peers from the same generation. I remember our seats, the view, Philly Joe's cool licks, and the feeling that I was being let in on a great secret. At the time, I was working at the Temple University full time jazz radio station WRTI, the freedom sounds, as was said on the air at the time (the station is no longer either full time jazz or really any good) and getting a good view of how few people actually came out to listen to jazz. It's true that Dexter, in his return to the US was packing them in at that time (at a club called Stars, if I remember correctly), but most shows, even with well known musicians, were very sparsely attended.
  2. Lee Konitz & The Art Of Taking Your Time

    Thanks. I have a nice memory of Lee from 1977. I was 18, a freshman studying philosophy at Temple University in Philadelphia. One night I want to a club called Just Jazz to hear Lee, Jimmy Merritt, Philly Joe (who played all the time in town), and Barry Harris, There were about 8 people in the club and Lee came and sat down with my friend and I and chatted for 10 minutes or so. My friend asked him how it was to play with Philly Joe and Lee held his hand out and mimicked Philly's light finger action on the ride cymbal saying he loved his time. I've seen Lee a few times since then, mostly in St. Paul Minnesota at a defunct, musician owned club, the Artist's Quarter. Ran the gamut from utter boredom to inspired sublimity. Once Lew Tabackin was telling a story about playing in Barcelona and going out to listen to some flamenco music late at night. He and the party kept waiting and waiting for the music to start. Lew said "You know, it's like a Lee Konitz show. You wait around long enough and something interesting might happen."
  3. Lee Konitz & The Art Of Taking Your Time

    Could someone please repost the first Konitz trio above? Since it disappeared on this thread, I've been unable to find it anywhere else. Fascinating performance.
  4. Overlooked Altos

    All these years later, after listening once again to Mingus's Tijuana Moods, I wonder if you ever did find out what happened to the great Shafi Hadi.
  5. Sonny Rollins discoveries

    "Hey Jazz fans," as Bob Dorough sang a long time ago on a version of Yardbird Suite. So nice to be beckoned back to the forum. There is a lot of good writing about jazz, most of it in small magazines and books, some in blogs, and some buried in forums surrounded by a lot of uninteresting subjective approval and, more often, disproval. For some reason, Rollins, like most artistic geniuses, has produced more hagiography than interesting criticism. Critical analysis of his early career, before he had attained permanent status as the latest in the line of jazz saviors, was more nuanced and interesting. It also coincided with the final divorce between jazz and popular music as third stream, "new thing" avant-guard, retro soul jazz, and various other branches of jazz, each very creative and interesting, emerged from the lull between the death of Parker and the perculating musical world of a few years later. Gunther Schuller's oft cited but rarely read analysis of Rollins thematic improvisation in Blue 7 marks the apogee of this treatment along with, perhaps, George Russell's offer to provide a new framework for improvisation, modal jazz (noting Mingus's sense that modal jazz was, to put it in a typically Mingus manner, bullshit) and so on. As is the case in cultural analysis in general, by the time an art form needs a savior, let along the nominating and proclaiming of one, it is already too late. Those of us who worry about why Sonny's music lost it's nerve, notwithstanding the at times infectious and rousing performances of the post 60s work, tend to fall into bitter diatribes, more revealing of our own cultural estrangements or, perhaps more generously put, more indicative of our own utopian hopes for some aspect of genius we have heard and responded to in Rollins music, to find an appropriate contemporary frame in which both the setting, the side men, the project, the ambition: in short, the Gesamtkunstwerk, would be accomplished. The utopian dimension of this longing is intensified since we have been in this mode for more than 2/3 of Rollins career. It's not going to happen, clearly. The other option is just to do some jujitsu on our critical faculties. You can see this in the liner notes to Silver City, but even, I think, in Giddens' work on Rollins, which gets stuck in all the pitfalls of hero worship, however superficially critical he at times writes. I think I mentioned in the previous post the work of Phil Woods, Joe Henderson, and Lee Konitz. I mentioned these musicians for their contrasting musical and artistic visions and projects. But for the sake of space, consider again Henderson's work during the last 15 years of his life. Everyone always played above themselves on his projects and, to judge from the several times I saw him, live as well. But he never had to wrestle with the burdens of genius that Rollins did, to Joe's everlasting benefit, as it turned out. He formed great sympathetic groups and worked with his label on facinating and ever changing projects (Strayhorn, tribute to Miles, Big Band, music of Brazil). Perhaps a closer example to Rollins would be Stan Getz during the last decade of his life. If there was a tenor player who had a similar aura of mastery and invention these last 30 years it would have had to have been him. And yet, he formed magnificent, collaborative groups with Victor Lewis, Jim McNeeley, Kenny Barron, Rufus Reed...Those groups framed and highlighted the great mastery of the leader, Getz, but the best records and performances always displayed the mastery of each and every one of the other men of the group. This has never happened with Rollins. Oddly, Getz, with his addictions and personality disorders was the more sensitive and receptive musician while Rollins, who is seemingly beloved by many (not the Getzian epitath) and often described as a decent and generous guy, has never had an ear for his fellow musicians. If Sonny is "on" his shows may inspire in a problematic way I will have to deal with at length in another forum, but what they don't do is give a sense of music and musicians attuned to each other in some phantasmagoric ideal world of sound and sensibility. When Sonny stops the music loses its cohesion. (This reminds of the descriptions of Miles's electric groups to play together without Miles. It didn't work. Davis is an interesting case here since he did in fact, at least until the late 60 put together the kind of groups that Rollins never could or desired to put together. ) It is just this failure that disappoints us and usually leads to the either defenses of Sonny's greatness (great despite the group or the group's work deemed irrelevant to the greatness discerned) or bitter disappointment at the purile overall group acomplishment made more acute by the great man at the center of it all. Perhaps we need another definition of genius. The one hung around Rollins's neck doesn't do us any good, makes us dumb in trying to assess his music, and clearly hasn't done him any good, either. There's a lot to ponder here. Anyway, much too soon, I must break off. Thanks for the comments, everyone.
  6. Sonny Rollins discoveries

    And now Sonny won't release the recording from the concert last fall. He says his own playing is not up to snuff. By that standard, he's have to delete nearly every recording for the last 40 years! Christian McBride vs Bob Cranshaw playing lame quarter notes with that awful electric buzz and Roy Haynes vs whoever is ambling aimlessly in Sonny's group? I just saw Roy and his group was great as was his playing. Sonny the enigma rolls on. Instead of the Carnegie Hall concert he's releasing a DVD of his current group. What a shame. Sonny said in a recent interview that he does not listen to either his won recordings or even, for the last 20 years or so, other music. This explains, perhaps, the complete absence of development during that time. His groups never get any better no matter who is in them or how long they play together. Compare with Phil Woods, for example. Sonny says he doesn't listen to what is happening behind him, either, which explains the absence of self-criticism. Compare with Lee Konitz who says he listens to EVERYTHING happening behind him in order to "lay the right notes" down. Listen to the next to last tune on the last record. Could he have listened to that and put it out? Was that any better than the Carnegie Hall trio? Of course not. It's too bad. I don't think we'll hear Sonny playing with Christian or Roy again, not to mention any other great musicians. Clifton Anderson may be a really nice guy who obviously can play the trombone well enough to do ensemble work. But would anyone want to hear him instead of Steve Davis, or Herwig, or Wycliff or any other trombonist? But that's the way Sonny likes it with no one on his level. But the consequence of that approach is that the music is almost always awful, as the listener tries to do what Sonny does, not listen to the rest of the group except insofar as the comp is even and unobtrusive. It's too bad given the greatness of Sonny's gifts.