Lee Konitz: Billie's Bounce

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.

October 16, 2008 · 0 comments


Dizzy Gillespie: Billie's Bounce

One of Gillespie's final albums was this tribute to Charlie Parker, recorded live at the Blue Note in New York, as part of a celebration of Dizzy's 75th birthday. This track shows little of the dexterity for which Dizzy was famous, but rather showcases two other aspects of his genius: his ability to assemble exemplary bands and his highly developed sense of phrasing. There are fine solos all around, including a masterful contribution by Mraz, who draws loud cheers from both his bandmates and the audience. The far-reaching and probative solos by Golson and Sanchez are marked contrasts to Gillespie's subtle, thematic improvisation, whose nuance could be called Armstrong-esque.

February 05, 2008 · 0 comments


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