Lee Konitz: Billie's Bounce
Lee Konitz (alto sax)
Very Cool (Verve MG V 8209)
Sal Mosca (piano), Billy Bauer (guitar), Peter Ind (bass), Shadow Wilson (drums).
Composed by Charlie Parker.
Recorded: New York, May 5, 1957
Rating: 86/100 (learn more)
Lee Konitz had the reputation of being the stylistic alternative to Charlie Parker during the 1940s and '50s. A slightly younger contemporary of Bird, Konitz was one of the few saxophonists of his day to remain comparatively unaffected by Parker's influence. For that reason, it's interesting to hear Konitz interpret one of Parker's best-known blues lines. This 1957 performance has Konitz moving away from his relatively note-y improvisations on the early Lennie Tristano sides. His style is not nearly as lean and melodic as it would become, but it's getting there.
Trumpeter Don Ferrara's solo is superb. A bright-toned, soulful, Gillespie-influenced player, he blows a tastefully extroverted horn. Konitz, on the other hand, is extremely cool, weaving a solo of impeccable logic and emotional restraint. Bassist Peter Ind's solo is unusually limber for its time, and pianist Sal Mosca takes a few nice understated choruses. Drummer Shadow Wilson plays with a nice easy feel. In terms of backing the horns, the rhythm section is boilerplate mid-1950s bop—extremely competent, if not overly daring. The horns lead out of the solos into the final statement of the head with a transcription of Bird's improvisation on the original 1945 Savoy recording of the tune, providing a rather direct avenue of comparison. It's a nice touch. Not top-drawer Konitz, but the perspective it gives on his stylistic distance from Parker makes it a valuable track.
Reviewer: Chris Kelsey