Lee Konitz: Tenorlee / Lady Be Good

Track

Tenorlee / Lady Be Good

Artist

Lee Konitz (tenor sax)

CD

Tenorlee (Candid CHCD 71019)

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Musicians:

Lee Konitz (tenor sax), Jimmy Rowles (piano),

Michael Moore (bass)

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“Tenorlee” composed by Lee Konitz. “Oh, Lady Be Good!” composed by George & Ira Gershwin

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Recorded: New York, March 23, 1978

Albumcoverleekonitz-tenorlee

Rating: 94/100 (learn more)

It can't have been an accident that altoist Lee Konitz chose the quintessential Lester Young vehicle "Lady be Good" to pair with the title track on an album featuring (notwithstanding the cover photo) his tenor work. Konitz on tenor sounds much like a modernized Pres—the lightness of tone and articulation and the ease of swing show his kinship with the greatest pre-bop tenorist (a title to which Coleman Hawkins also has plausible claim). However, the resemblance of Lee to Lester, while profound, is paradoxically skin-deep. Konitz the tenor player is as strong an individualist as Konitz the altoist, possessed of the same distinctive sweet-&-sour tone and no-nonsense, deliberative melodic approach.

The track begins with an unaccompanied tenor solo that leads into the embroidered theme played in unison by Konitz and Jimmy Rowles (it must surely be a transcription of a Lester Young solo, though I do not have the version on hand with which to compare). Generally, the quieter the context, the more Konitz shines. That's true here. The absence of a drummer throws the subtlety of Konitz's playing into relief. It's a treat to hear his nuanced approach in all its aspects. Jimmy Rowles is a tasty, witty bop player, and bassist Michael Moore holds down the bottom capably if inconspicuously. The performance is flawed by an anti- climactic and very abrupt fade. That said, taking into consideration that Konitz hasn't recorded much on tenor—and given the good-humored, spirited reading—this is a nearly essential gem in his discography.

Reviewer: Chris Kelsey

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