Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Listening to Prestige Records, part 25: Lee Konitz

Lee Konitz back in the Prestige studios again, April 7, 1950, seven months after the first session. still in the Tristano circle, this time without Warne Marsh or Denzil Best. In Best's place, Jeff Morton, about whom I can find no information whatsoever, which seems strange, given that he played on quite a number of sessions within the Tristano circle, and you had to be pretty advanced musically to play in that circle. Sal Mosca, in an interview, says that he was usually the drummer at Tristano's Saturday night jam sessions. His presence is felt here, especially on the uptempo numbers, and it's a strong one.

And on guitar, Billy Bauer. And he is a treat to listen to, whether playing the guitar like a percussion instrument, chording, or playing single-string runs.

The tunes today are two ballads, "Rebecca" and "You Go to My Head," and two uptempo numbers, "Ice Cream Konitz" and "Palo Alto." The ballads are demanding, but far from emotionally barren. The uptempo numbers are virtuoso performances from all concerned. "Ice Cream Konitz" is a good argument for why modern jazz players should maybe have retired the fad of punning on their own names; "Palo Alto" is a subtler pun, more befitting a Tristano acolyte. Either way, they swing both subtly and forcefully, and interplay between guitar, piano and alto is more than satisfying,
 I had a friend who took lessons from Bauer many years ago. He said that for the first half-hour, Bauer had him do nothing but play the same note on the same string, over and over, while he kept saying, "Swing...swing." "And when it was over," my friend said, "I was swinging!"

I linked above to an interview with Sal Mosca. Here are a couple of excerpts from it.

 At first, I did not like Charlie Parker. Lennie Tristano had me sing a solo of Parker’s. It was Scrapple From the Apple. It took me one and ½ years to learn to sing it, and another six months to play it on the piano. When I was able to play it, I began to love Charlie Parker and my love of his playing grew and continued after that.

[On classical pianists]  I prefer Horowitz. He is more romantic. He’s the closest to jazz of all the classical pianists. I heard a recording of Horowitz playing Mozart, it sounded like stride piano. Did you know that he went often to hear Tatum?

 These sessions were released on both Prestige and New Jazz 78s, on an EP called Lee Konitz with Billy Bauer, on a 10-inch called Stan Getz/Lee Konitz - The New Sounds, and on 7000-series LP called Lee Konitz With Tristano, Marsh And Bauer.

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