Lee Konitz: Subconscious-Lee




Lee Konitz (alto sax)


Subconscious-Lee (Prestige)

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Lee Konitz (alto sax), Lennie Tristano (piano), Billy Bauer (guitar), Shelly Manne (drums),

Arnold Fishkin (bass)


Composed by Lee Konitz


Recorded: New York, January 11, 1949


Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

This tune, which Lee Konitz would re-record several times during the following decades, is particularly interesting in its primal version from the altoist's first session as a leader. Konitz was then 21, still studying and playing with Lennie Tristano, whom he enlisted as pianist in this recording quintet. While its title may stem from Tristano's interest in psychoanalysis, the song is actually based on the chord sequence of "What Is This Thing Called Love," played at swift tempo and with a new melody. Such reworking of standards was frequent among beboppers and Tristano-ites alike, and Konitz definitely did a fine job in penning the sinuous new melody line. After the theme is exposed by sax and guitar in unison, Tristano has the first solo, indulging his virtuoso linear improvising technique accompanied by an efficient, highly rhythmic left-hand comping. Then guitarist Billy Bauer, another Tristano disciple, choruses in a very lyrical way, his rich sound and brisk phrasing just great. Konitz is the final soloist. His swift imagination and perfect time are breathtaking, including melodic gems during the short fours that he, Tristano and Bauer trade before briefly restating the theme. The impetus and sheer joy of these three soloists, along with the tonic support of Shelly Manne and Arnold Fishkin, suggests that pigeonholing this music as "cool" or even "cold" at the time must have been the result of misunderstanding. Although this alternative to bebop's dominance was advocated by a musical minority and badly received by the rest, 60 years later it's clear that these virtuosos recorded some of the most beautiful music of the 1940s and '50s.

Reviewer: Thierry Quénum

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