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Desmond/Konitz

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They're wholly unalike...except when they're similar. which happened often enough for Desmond in the early/mid-50s to be noticeable. As time went on...well, no. Paul recorded for CTI, Konitz didn't. And so forth.

Did either one of them go on record of what they thought about the other? Because Konitz was definitely "there first" in terms of general tonal color (general color, there's no mistaking the two, although some people with aural musical prejudice seem to insist that they sound "alike") and the whole Bach-based (that will be my assumption, anyway) rhythmic/harmonic impetus that drove the longer lines, yet Desmond had a noticably and totally different aesthetic about what "it" was going to end up "being". I don't know if Konitz quoted as much in one year as Desmond did in one solo. and, again, so forth.

Two different men in almost every regard, yet, in the time I'm talking about, when both got "freed up" their lines flowed in very much the same way. The tipping point for me was listening to Desmond on "Pennies From Heaven" on Brubeck Time, just about as purely a "melodic" solo as can be played, and I found myself thinking that if Konitz was playing instead of Desmond, it could have potentially been pretty much the same solo coming out.

Any thought, either by them or about them about this?

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I agree with you though I've listened to a lot more Konitz than Desmond. I can remember hearing the Desmond/Mulligan record on Verve (which oddly I still don't own) and thinking it was Konitz at one point! As far as critical writing on the subject, I've not seen any, but it stands to reason there'd be something out there. Sure, Bach's motivic/rhythmic approach does seem to inform both. I'm thinking of the cello suites especially, but the forms in those works certainly were a granular part of something much larger.

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Yeah, I think the Bach thing is at the musical core of it (remember how Lennie used to open a set with a Bach invention "to show people where we're coming from"), but so much more comes into the mix by nature of geography, chronology, sociology, just every -ology you can think of pretty much. And both Desmond & Konitz (especially Desmond) when uninspired or whatever, could fall back into some really superficial "noodling" of patterns/sequences/whatever, a Sonny Stitt-ish autopilot, if Stitt had been founded in Bach instead of Bird. But of course, he wasn't, and they weren't completely, but, just saying, you can tell a lot about where a player is at when they're uninspired or for any other reason is coasting. Sonny Rollins, same thing, he's into his air column, making it as full and large as possible. If you don't get anything else out of Rollins, you'll get air being put into/through the horn at a size and amount that is beyond gigantic. Etc.

But yes, Desmond & Konitz, their divergences are great, but when there's a convergence, that's really, really cool, I think, because the whole concept of "pure melody" can be used as a battering ram for all sorts of prejudices, predilections, and presumptions, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist in the meta-sense, and when those guys hit that zone, there it is, in that iteration, and hello Lester Young, no matter where we go, there you are, world without end, amen.

I agree with you though I've listened to a lot more Konitz than Desmond.

I thought I had Desmond "figured out, geez...30 or so years ago, but have recently returned for anotehr, deeper, round of exposure, and am quite often finding a lot more there than I had first settled on. The whole thing is deceptive, because Brubeck and the other surroundings he had around him) do not necessarily stimulate the "deeper impulses" (Jim Hall being a notable exception, and Brubeck is kinda sneaky too, he'll be going on yadayada forever, and then really hit on something for a second or two, and then goes back to the yadayada, so you have to decide if it's really worth it, and I guess that's the difference between listening for information and listening for recreation).

But yeah, Desmond with Brubeck on Fantasy and the early Columbias (up to the time Joe Morello joined, coincidence or not, I don't know), very often was in a zone, a real zone. After that, different steps on the same wider path, but on that earlier stuff, zone out the ass. for real. Not always, but very often.

I'm a self-admitted "tenor geek", but my last six weeks or so of listening have been almost exclusively Roscoe Mitchell, Jackie McLean, & Paul Desmond. Go figure.

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But yes, Desmond & Konitz, their divergences are great, but when there's a convergence, that's really, really cool, I think, because the whole concept of "pure melody" can be used as a battering ram for all sorts of prejudices, predilections, and presumptions, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist in the meta-sense, and when those guys hit that zone, there it is, in that iteration, and hello Lester Young, no matter where we go, there you are, world without end, amen.

Amen and Amen!

You know, I've never really thought about it before but there is quite a bit of commonality between them.

To me, the biggest difference would in the way that Konitz reacts to what he calls "schmaltz." In his book, he throws that term around a lot, and it's BIG red light for him. Something to be avoided at all costs. And that attitude "toughens up" Konitz whole approach. On the other hand, you could call a lot of what Desmond did -- I'm especially thinking of the CTIs -- schmaltzy. Most definitely. But I also think that Desmond's music benefits from that sometimes -- as if he's trying to find something more purely beautiful and delicate than what Konitz is after. Sometimes Desmond misses -- and those misses end up sounding like bigger misses than Konitz's (at least to my ears). But when Desmond connects... phew. It's a thing of beauty.

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Lee talks about Paul: Pages 85-86 of "Conversations on The Improviser's Art"

 

https://books.google.com/books?id=pc4CsgVHLw0C&pg=PA85&dq=lee+konitz+and+paul+desmond&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CB0Q6AEwAGoVChMI4a_WzJGzxwIVhdUeCh2bIQx8#v=onepage&q=lee%20konitz%20and%20paul%20desmond&f=false

 

 

Maybe relevant, maybe not. I HAVE to hear the rest of the record. Alto-madness c. 1973 -- Konitz, Mclean, Bartz, Mariano.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fPsERNOU5ug

Edited by Mark Stryker

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Yeah, "he had a lot of girlfriends", that's hilarious. I recently read something where Desmond said something to the effect that playing to get chicks was one of his primary motivations (taht's not a quote, ok?), and if Konitz would ever admit to even thinking about having that thought, I'd be shocked.

But, hey, that Bach, it gets into that zone, and yes, there is some rockin' and rollin' implicit in it. Where and with whom and to what end up for grabs, but it's there, and it's ill-served when it's not.

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I have that Altissimo record - curious one for sure. It was issued in Japan on Philips, not particularly well-known but worth hearing.

And for Lestorian tenor these days, one should look no further than Ted Brown, who's still playing and is an embodiment of that history.

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 Maybe relevant, maybe not. I HAVE to hear the rest of the record. Alto-madness c. 1973 -- Konitz, Mclean, Bartz, Mariano.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fPsERNOU5ug

Definitely relevant:

alto_summit32.jpeg

Last cut on the record, "Lee's Tribute To Bach And Bird". A Bach chorale, and then Bird's Wichita "Honeysuckle Rose" solo played by the section, and then some blowing. It's the one cut on the record that really hits a zone. The rest does not really gel. Fun to listen to, but...not that much.

Lee looks cool as shit on the cover. Whatever phobias he has about hipness did not extend to his attire during this period.

764311.jpg

 

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Sometimes to advantage, sometimes not so much, Desmond made a heck of a lot more use of sequences than Konitz did -- significant chunks of Desmond solos are built that way, again sometimes to charming effect, sometimes not. I would guess that if Lee saw a sequence coming on while soloing he would try to avoid it, and if he actually found himself playing one he'd be embarrassed.

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I agree that Alto Summit is a better record than Altissimo, though the latter does have the intriguing rhythm section of Joachim Kühn, Palle Danielsson and Han Bennink...

LK is probably right about LK :)

I'd want to say that Lee Konitz is "freer" than Desmond, the implications of which could vary depending on your perspective. Or, to put it in Sonic Youth terms, "Lee Is Free."

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I always found Desmond to be really the ultimate Jazz Middlebrow - smart but in veiled-conventional, middle class ways. In his person and his playing. The kind of intellectual that only a non-intellectual thinks is an intellectual.

Edited by AllenLowe

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Sometimes to advantage, sometimes not so much, Desmond made a heck of a lot more use of sequences than Konitz did -- significant chunks of Desmond solos are built that way, again sometimes to charming effect, sometimes not.

When he's really playing, it's more than just "charming", I think, the line goes on and on with a logic that threatens to be broken at any second but never is. Most "jazz" improvisation is not focused on being that "patient" when it comes to developing a cell that "singularly", not really interested in working a motif that long that explicitly, not variating it but expanding it while keeping it intact, most "jazz" improvisation is concerned with getting it out NOW, and that's a real thing not to be approached lightly, with a discipline all its own (ideally...). Sometimes he gets lazy with it, especially later on, but jesus, there are times when it's breathtaking, it's like blowing up a balloon or a bubble gum bubble so big that you know it has to explode but it never does. Macro logic.

And then there's the foo-foo deedle-deedle, which seems to have been the default mode for the DBQ's improvised counterpoint, that shit makes me wanna puke, almost always, and when Desmond solos in much that same mode, all the more so. That shit is just...surrender to the dark forces of life, so shiny, so bright, but oh, so dark, like, would you drink florescent water? Or pastel water? Hell no, that's a WARNING SIGN, dig?

But then there's not that, and that's where it gets interesting. Not for the tools, not for the process, but for the final architecture itself. I think there's a freedom in that, just as there is a freedom in Lee's imperative of spontaneity. Perhaps freedom is one of those things that you notice most when it's not there, like you only notice that you're tall when you're predominated by shortness, and vice-versa.

You wouldn't drink that weirdness water, oh hell no, but would you marvel in a stream that flows effortlessly and endlessly, wouldn't you wonder where that came from and where it goes to, maybe it doesn't come from anywhere and/or maybe it doesn't go anywhere, maybe its just eternal water, it definitely is that as observed in real time and nobody's gotten it to end yet, so would you drink THAT? I think I would, thank you, because that's freedom water, and that water you drink first, figure out later, if you ever have to, although by then it's probably too late, something's gone wrong, oops,. But unless/until then...

 

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The kind of intellectual that only a non-intellectual thinks is an intellectual. - that's some funny (in every sense) stuff there, and yeah I do know what you're saying, both generally and with regard to Desmond, but sometimes he is better than that too.

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Intellectual as a "thing" instead of a way of being is the ultimate middlebrow mindset.

Being true to your brow, no matter where it is, that's where the art is.

Where the Art is, I really don't care.

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Lee emerged earlier than Paul and at the time (late 40s/early 50s) a few years made a big difference in the climate of the music. So undiluted bop was a background influence for Lee (though he got it tempered by the Tristano experience) in a way that it wasn't for Paul, who came along a few years later. Of course, Lester was a huge influence on both, but in Lee I hear it as Lester plus bop and Tristano, which I don't hear in Paul.

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Lee emerged earlier than Paul and at the time (late 40s/early 50s) a few years made a big difference in the climate of the music. So undiluted bop was a background influence for Lee (though he got it tempered by the Tristano experience) in a way that it wasn't for Paul, who came along a few years later. Of course, Lester was a huge influence on both, but in Lee I hear it as Lester plus bop and Tristano, which I don't hear in Paul.

and that's what sort of intrigues me about Desmond. He knew bop, there's one solo of his where he quotes "In the Land Of Oo-BLa-Dee", and when he wants to, he can throw a Bird lick in there, and of course there's the "famous" radio interview he did with Bird, so...he knew. But he didn't go there. Why? Part of me thinks it was a stubborn Independence, part of me thinks it was that "middlebrow" laziness, not wanting to work like that when this comes easier and as effectively (ah, but how easy did it really come...the guy had chops in reserve, and when he pulled them out, they were there, full-on). 

and most intriguingly, what if it was both? What if he was stubborn, proud, independent, gifted, hard working, and "middlebrow"? What if he heard Bird, GOT Bird, and just decided, well, I can never be that, but I can be pretty damn good this, in fact, i can be a pretty damn good and unique this.

You think of all the players, white and otherwise, who heard both Bird & Pres during that general time, who decided where to go and how, and how many really ended up avoiding Bird in a way that sounded both organic and informed? As you say, Tristano went another way, but, still, bebop was there, implicitly, if only in its refusal to bend to it. Desmond's just like, oh, hi there, Bop, lookin' good! How's things? and then on about his business, happy about bop, happy about Desmond, no need for worlds to collide, peaceful coexistence for all.

Really gotta wonder about the role geography played in all that, too. northern California/Bay Area...not sure what the imperative to conform to the general "modern" orthodoxy was there and then, and then, once out in the bigger jazzworld pressure to conform not particularly overwhelming knowing what was already forming inside.

Position of brow aside, there's some interesting decisions at play with Paul Desmond. And I dig how he looked like he did, played the way he did, and lived like he did, talk about a stealth motherfucker in ALL kinds of ways!

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Oh, Bill Perkins, that's one guy who seems to have "avoided" Bird in a way that was both organic and informed. But that didn't last.

People talk about Art Pepper as not having any Bird in him, and that's just fetishist bullshit. There was more to him than just Bird, but Bird was in there, for sure.

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I don't really have much of a problem with Brubeck's music for what it is, as long as I don't expect it to be anything more. It swings in an off-kilter way, and is interesting and inventive. But it lacks the multiple levels of engagement that, for me, sustain interest and encourage further invention.

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So, was Paul Desmond the first neo-con in jazz?

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I really dig the recentish Konitz albums that i've heard. I don't want to say something glib like 'he's continued to grow or evolve or whatever' when i really couldn't quantify that, but i really dig his current sound. I wonder what Desmond would sound like today if he was still kicking?

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Oh, Bill Perkins, that's one guy who seems to have "avoided" Bird in a way that was both organic and informed. But that didn't last.

People talk about Art Pepper as not having any Bird in him, and that's just fetishist bullshit. There was more to him than just Bird, but Bird was in there, for sure.

I don't think that avoiding Bird was much of an issue for Perkins, who was drenched in Pres -- not much if any room or need for Bird in the vintage Perkins universe, and of course he was far from the only Pres-drenched tenorman of that time of whom this could be said.  Then, of course -- which may from your point of view contradict this -- Perkins began to try to work chunks of Rollins, Coltrane, and (unless I'm mistaken) Shorter into his playing, often with IMO awkward results. In particular, my sense was that Perk was trying to transform semi-"out" harmonic moves into meaningful rhythmic angularities that he couldn't otherwise get his head and fingers around. Sometimes it kind of worked; there was a lot of sincere human struggle at work in this.

Edited by Larry Kart

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So, was Paul Desmond the first neo-con in jazz?

I don't really have much of a problem with Brubeck's music for what it is, as long as I don't expect it to be anything more. It swings in an off-kilter way, and is interesting and inventive. But it lacks the multiple levels of engagement that, for me, sustain interest and encourage further invention.

I'm pretty much with you all the way on Brubeck per se...interesting, original, and quirky. But it is what it is, and that's pretty much ALL that it is. Which I've come to appreciate as being no small feat itself, really. But yeah, self-contained world, really, Desmond, though, he brought something extra, he had another set of gears. Gears which not unlike his hair (and unlike Brubeck's hair) got more and more implied as the years went on. And a gear to which he did not seem to put in motion at all times, for whatever reason, but which was always in reserve. some guys are like that, you always sense that they got something extra, don't fuck with them like they don't.

I also wonder if the changes in Brubeck's music brought about by the addition of Joe Morello and the whole Time Out thing that saw a permanent shift in the Brubeck group dynamic brought out that middle-class thing in him, a passivity to not fuck with something that's working. I say that, because comparing his playing with Joe Dodge in the quartet when they're just blowing on standards (with or without those cleverass harmonized heads) is not the same as his playing with Morello behind him. Might be a coincidence, might just be that he got comfortable with the indulgences that his success afforded him, but either way, there is a difference. And the material contained in the Desmond/Hall Mosaic is...harder than it look, if you know what I mean. Jim Hall did not make cheap music, and what he does with Desmond really sorta blows Desmond's cover as being an "easy" player. OOPS!

Point just being that "Brubeck" and "Desmond" might be synonymous, definitely are sympathetic but they are not really equal. Brubeck was good, clean, hard work, he'd make his intentions known honorably. Desmond was getting the angle in and then having all the fun he wanted to have. One, the devoted family man, the other the renowned drinker, womanizer, just all-around SCOUNDREL! :g

And here's some waaay late props to Joe Dodge, him being the Brubeckian World Jo Jones to Joe Morello's Sonny Payne, and yes, love it, all of it, variety is the ultimate trip as well as the ultimate test.

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Sometimes to advantage, sometimes not so much, Desmond made a heck of a lot more use of sequences than Konitz did -- significant chunks of Desmond solos are built that way, again sometimes to charming effect, sometimes not.

When he's really playing, it's more than just "charming", I think, the line goes on and on with a logic that threatens to be broken at any second but never is.

 

Exactly. But OTOH that logical continuity IMO seldom if ever builds to peaks or reaches down to depths -- a la, say, Pepper on "Besame Mucho" or "I Surrender Dear." 

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Oh, Bill Perkins, that's one guy who seems to have "avoided" Bird in a way that was both organic and informed. But that didn't last.

People talk about Art Pepper as not having any Bird in him, and that's just fetishist bullshit. There was more to him than just Bird, but Bird was in there, for sure.

I don't think that avoiding Bird was much of an issue for Perkins, who was drenched in Pres -- not much if any room or need for Bird in the vintage Perkins universe, and of course he was far from the only Pres-drenched tenorman of that time of whom this could be said.  Then, of course -- which may from your point of view contradict this -- Perkins began to try to work chunks of Rollins, Coltrane, and (unless I'm mistaken) Shorter into his playing, often with IMO awkward results. In particular, my sense was that Perk was trying transform semi-"out" harmonic moves into meaningful rhythmic angularities that he couldn't otherwise get his head and fingers around. Sometimes it kind of worked; there was a lot of sincere human struggle at work in this.

I love the story about Perkins being on the Kenton band and riding on the bus with an orange(?) raincoat pulled all up over his head and never talking to anybody. That's sincere human struggle, especially if it's true.

But tell me, who else was as untouched by Bird as Bill Perkins? Brew Moore? Not really...unaffected but not untouched, if that makes any sense? Steve White? Well, ok, but that guy was just nuts. All those "West Coast" guys, they kinda sound like they just went with the tide on that one. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

But Desmond, I hear a lot of classical training, classical saxophone training, in his whole thing, articulation, tone, pitch, everything. It's there when he gets "jazzy", and it's there when he gets foo-foo-ey "classical". He doesn't try to hide it, either, nor to signify it, which is what I find rare about him, he really seems to be wholly who he is, and yeah, that's pretty rare, if at times disarming and/or challenging to prevailing orthodoxies past present and future.

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So, was Paul Desmond the first neo-con in jazz?

 

I don't really have much of a problem with Brubeck's music for what it is, as long as I don't expect it to be anything more. It swings in an off-kilter way, and is interesting and inventive. But it lacks the multiple levels of engagement that, for me, sustain interest and encourage further invention.

I'm pretty much with you all the way on Brubeck per se...interesting, original, and quirky. But it is what it is, and that's pretty much ALL that it is. Which I've come to appreciate as being no small feat itself, really. But yeah, self-contained world, really, Desmond, though, he brought something extra, he had another set of gears. Gears which not unlike his hair (and unlike Brubeck's hair) got more and more implied as the years went on. And a gear to which he did not seem to put in motion at all times, for whatever reason, but which was always in reserve. some guys are like that, you always sense that they got something extra, don't fuck with them like they don't.

I also wonder if the changes in Brubeck's music brought about by the addition of Joe Morello and the whole Time Out thing that saw a permanent shift in the Brubeck group dynamic brought out that middle-class thing in him, a passivity to not fuck with something that's working. I say that, because comparing his playing with Joe Dodge in the quartet when they're just blowing on standards (with or without those cleverass harmonized heads) is not the same as his playing with Morello behind him. Might be a coincidence, might just be that he got comfortable with the indulgences that his success afforded him, but either way, there is a difference. And the material contained in the Desmond/Hall Mosaic is...harder than it look, if you know what I mean. Jim Hall did not make cheap music, and what he does with Desmond really sorta blows Desmond's cover as being an "easy" player. OOPS!

Point just being that "Brubeck" and "Desmond" might be synonymous, definitely are sympathetic but they are not really equal. Brubeck was good, clean, hard work, he'd make his intentions known honorably. Desmond was getting the angle in and then having all the fun he wanted to have. One, the devoted family man, the other the renowned drinker, womanizer, just all-around SCOUNDREL! :g

And here's some waaay late props to Joe Dodge, him being the Brubeckian World Jo Jones to Joe Morello's Sonny Payne, and yes, love it, all of it, variety is the ultimate trip as well as the ultimate test.

The above looks like you wanted to return a one-liner to my snorty post ... so come and let me have it! ;)

Anyway, thanks for your insight here and in other recent Desmond/Brubeck threads. Not sure I agree in every detail (for one, I probably am more positive towards Brubeck), but it's surely interesting to follow your line of thought!

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