Monday, July 6, 2009

Sensitive-Lee: Lee Konitz with Minsarah trio at FIJM play very, very subtle music

By Paul Serralheiro

He once admitted to being a “living adverb” due to titles such as Subconscious-Lee, Tender-Lee and his recent Deep Lee, so it was no surprise that alto saxophone legend Lee Konitz was an excellent conduit for some fine improvisation at the Gesu theatre Friday, July 3, 10:30 PM.

Starting off by saying “I’m glad to be here,” to which he added in a manner reminiscent of a stand-up comic, “I’m glad to be anywhere,” Konitz then announced that he was going to play “God knows what.” What followed in the next hour was some exceptionally fine interpretations of well-worn standards.

Accompanied by the young trio known as Minsarah (pianist Florian Weber, bassist Jeff Denson, and drummer Ziv Ravitz), Konitz launched into a very elastic version of Solar. This was followed by a tune that referenced a number of standards, among them Let’s Get Lost and Nature Boy. This was followed by a version of Cherokee which, again, referenced other tunes, among them Charlie Parker’s Constellation.

Next came You Don’t Know what love is and something Konitz announced as Play Fiddle Play, but ended up being a creative take on Kary’s Trance. After the curtain call the quartet returned for a short encore.

The music presented was conceived very spontaneously, with lots of space and freedom in the interpretation of form and harmonic structure. The younger musicians responded sensitively to the leader’s playing, and contributed their own more contemporary feelings for rhythm and melody in a refreshing, creative fashion.

A seminal figure in the post-bop era, beginning with his work with pianist Lennie Tristano and including his contributions to the Miles Davis-led Birth of the Cool sessions in the late 1940s, Konitz is no spring chicken. Yet, he has lost little of his beautiful tone and maintains an expressive technique.

The personality of his playing was matched by some idiosyncratic stage manners. He wore finger-less gloves. He stuck what looked like a handkerchief into his bell from time to time for a muted sound and he shrugged in a kind of jocular, dismissive way at the end of some tunes, as if to say “it’s not perfect, but so what.”

The show, although relatively poorly attended, just over half full, attracted a number of stars of the local scene, among them alto saxophonist Jean Derome and trumpeter Ivanhoe Jolicoeur who could be heard discussing the show in passionate tones outside at Midnight, while some non-jazz music blared from the festival area, bringing the fourth day of the 30th FIJM to a close.



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