Hello – We’d like to honor the memory of Lee Konitz, one of my (Alex) saxophone heroes and a pillar of jazz history. Let’s remember Lee and all of the great musicians who have taken the stage for the great big gig in the sky.
“I’m constantly amazed still at the miracle of improvising. That’s what’s so intriguing: For a whole lifetime. Because in really trying to improvise, I have the benefit of those surprises. Sometimes, they’re great surprises. Sometimes, they’re less of a surprise. Sometimes, its almost impossible to really make it work effectively, but it’s still a surprise. ” – Lee KonitzLee died on Wednesday, April 15 at the age of 92
As Phil Sees It // Phil Maneri
Coronavirus takes Lee Konitz at age 92. Today’s version of my article last week about our elder statesmen getting picked off one by one. I really don’t want to give the same speech I gave last week and then do it again next week. The virus is taking out the elder edges of our legacy and we need to honor them and do what we can to protect who’s left. That’s that.
Konitz played on Birth of the Cool with Miles Davis. Before that though and well into the 60’s were collaborations with Lennie Tristano, who was one of the most original voices in jazz history. Konitz’s resume after WW2 is a who’s who of jazz. Go to his Wiki discography page. Its ridiculous. His most recents gigs were with the Jeff Denson Trio in California. He did a quartet gig in NYC in 2012 with Bill Frisell, Gary Peacock, and Joey Baron. That’s some rarified air right there.
What did Lee Konitz teach the living? To be fearless. To push out the boundaries. To be honest and live with integrity. Make music choices not commercial ones. And much more than that.
Tristano was critical of Konitz playing with a variety of people but in fact that was central to his choices in his post-war career. He played with everyone he could rather than lead a band and develop a book. (David Adler in NJArts.net, great article today about Konitz). His habit was to absorb influence from everywhere and funnel it through his ever changing lens. As such his sound and approach was a moving target over time. He always sounded like himself -but then again he didn’t. He liked to play standards, preferring to dig deeper into them and try to find fresh ways to play very familiar things, but he also sought out new material and new people to constantly hit refresh. I got the impression he was one of those players that always said yes.
As such his discography is a mess. It’s huge and it shows no single driving point, no common thread other than his appearance on the credits. So now we are left wondering who he is. Can’t pigeonhole the guy. I’m thinking in the end that’s a good thing. Maybe the best thing.
That’s how I’d like to be remembered. As the guy who kept searching and reinventing himself, as the player who always was learning new things and absorbing new influence. When people think of Konitz maybe they think of one thing, but if they are paying attention, it’s only one small part of what he was about. His life was one long, growing, ever changing art project.
May yours be that, too.
Music and Chats TO SEE FROM YOUR COUCH
Dave Powers is sharing his unique piano and singing style every day for his “Facebook Live at 5.”
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The Blue Velvet Room is committed to bringing you the Bobby Floyd Trio LIVE as often as they can. You can catch them tonight at 7:30PM.
(as a reminder, JazzColumbus DON’T THINK IT’S A GOOD IDEA to go play gigs)
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Columbus Alive is putting a Livestream list together weekly. Here is this week’s, featuring our own Zakk Jones!
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Korey Black interviewed Zakk and I for his new (what do we call these now?) Podcast, Brews With Tunes.
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Shawn “Doctor Thunder” Wallace has a new Podcast called The Quarantine Interviews. Lots of big names and local heroes.
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More to come. If you have something going on that you’d like to share, let us know at email@example.com
What’re You Spinning // Ryan Craycroft
Like many right now, one place I’ve been finding comfort is in music. I’ve been doing that in part by tuning into Questlove’s (Ahmir Thompson) nightly DJ sessions, which he’s now calling #QuestosWreckaStow (a reference to a scene from Prince’s Under The Cherry Moon). Each night he explores artists and samples from all over the musical map. He also freely shares a lot of his knowledge about music. It feels kind of like hanging out at a record store and talking music with the owner. Last week he shared an artist that was new to me, but who arrived on the scene in 2019 – SAULT (pronounced salt).
SAULT originally presented their music anonymously after releasing their first two records last year entitled V and VII, respectively. There is still very little information available about who is actually in the band, but it appears that the main song-writers/producers are part of an independent UK record label called Forever Living Originals, involving Dean Josiah (aka Inflo) and Cleopatra Nikolic (aka Cleo Sol). Whoever the band members happen to be, they have a clear artistic aesthetic and I’ve really enjoyed listening to their music this week.
Their style is broad, yet their sound is specific, which I appreciate. I’m often drawn to music that doesn’t have clear boundaries, but still sounds like its own thing. Without trying to box them in, at any given moment their music can be a mix of R&B, funky, groovy, dubbed-out goodness, but is still vocally driven like a good pop song. The drums and bass are clearly the backbone of the band, but they don’t overshadow the vocalist, who has a varied stylistic range, as you’ll quickly discover from digging into their records. With solid production and fresh ideas, the band writes songs that allow room for everything to breathe and leave space for the emotions to land with the listener.
Up All Night is the first track off their debut album, V. It has a hypnotic bass and drum groove that continues throughout the song. The vocals start out with a fuzzy, gritty texture, as haunting background vocals surface intermittently. Synthesizers and a guitar start to layer in, creating a vibe reminiscent of an old favorite group of mine, The Budos Band. One of the things I like about this song is it doesn’t have a traditional song form. It continues to evolve, and expand, by adding instrumental and vocal textures. It honestly makes me want to see everyone outside dancing at a Summer music festival. But my couch is okay for now, too.
Some other songs from their two albums that I like are Threats, Why Why Why Why Why, Friends, Masterpiece, We Are The Sun, & Smile and Go. Rather than do a song by song analysis, if you’d like to hear more hypnotic, groovy, funky, dubbed-out music by SAULT, I’ve curated a Spotify playlist that you can listen to by clicking the link below. If you’d also like to watch Questlove’s nightly DJ sessions, you can go to The Roots’ YouTube channel and tune in when he goes live every night. I’d highly recommend it to maximize your evening chill.
I’d love to hear what you’re listening to and hope you find joy in music today.
(and don’t forget to check out Questlove’s SHOW)