Lee Konitz: Duet for Saxophone and Drums, and Piano
Duet for Saxophone and Drums, and Piano
Lee Konitz (alto sax)
European Episode - Impressive Rome (CAM 498376-2)
Composed by Lee Konitz, Daniel Humair & Martial Solal.
Recorded: Rome, Italy, October 12, 1968
Rating: 93/100 (learn more)
Saxophonist Lee Konitz's experience with free jazz dates back to the very first freely improvised jazz recordings: the Lennie Tristano Sextet's "Intuition" and "Digression" from 1949. So, while the saxophonist is widely known as an inimitable straight-ahead stylist, he's also shown a repeated inclination and ability to play "out" during the course of his career. "Duet for Saxophone and Drums, and Piano" is a 6-minute, totally improvised conversation between Konitz and drummer Daniel Humair, with pianist Martial Solal apparently unable to resist the impulse to join in.
Konitz begins by avoiding anything like a swing feel or even a consistent pulse. His line is sculptural, rather than architectural—an exercise in disciplined impetuosity, unplanned yet not without design. Humair embroiders Konitz's line quietly and inventively with varied timbres and inconstant rhythms. He's a full partner only briefly. Solal enters mid-performance and temporarily replaces him in the dialogue with Konitz. The pianist seems to read the saxophonist's mind, so closely do they act on and respond to one another's gestures. Solal is a wonderful free player, very expressive and articulate, and obviously well versed in 20th-century European art music. Humair returns for the track's last segment, as Solal drops out. The heat he generates is palpable, but it simmers rather than boils.
Konitz apparently utilizes an Octavoice or multivider—an electronic device that splits the horn's sound into separate octaves. As one of the first electronic effects for horn players, it was fairly popular in the '60s and '70s. The device provides the illusion of another horn doubling Konitz's thorny lines, inspiring a perception of greater ensemble unity. In a bop context, it's a bit gimmicky, but in this context it works quite well. Overall, this music sounds so fresh, it could've been recorded yesterday. Contemporary free jazzers would do well to do to adopt Konitz's philosophy of stylistic growth and curiosity.
Reviewer: Chris Kelsey