Disc of the day: 01-12-09

Lee Konitz & Martial Solal: Star Eyes, 1983 (Hat Hut Records hatOLOGY 668)
How could the disc of today be anything else? Tonight alto saxophonist Lee Konitz is playing at the CBSO Centre in Birmingham with the young French-born US pianist Dan Tepfer; here he is in at a German festival in 1983 with the French Algerian pianist Martial Solal.

There may be 26 years between the two gigs, but that’s no time at all for this evergreen jazz musician who goes all the back to the Birth Of The Cool sessions and back up through the development of the cool sound on the American West Coast, and on and on along his very own particular path. He has always played a lot of standards and here we hear Just Friends, Star Eyes, Body & Soul, What’s New and Cherokee along with originals like Subconscious-Lee.

So familiar with this music is Konitz that he can refresh them each time he plays them, by bringing in new ideas, seemingly effortlessly “re-composing” them so that improvisation and playing what is there in the tunes becomes so integrated that the one cannot be distinguished from the other.

And Konitz is not only a wonderful raconteur in music, he is an absorbed and absorbing conversationalist. Which means the duo format gets to the heart of what he and the music are all about. If you want to sample one track, try Body & Soul for the wonderful way Konitz works his way through such a familiar tune finding new harmonic nuances and drawing the listener in to listen as freshly as Konitz does to make the old new again.

Konitz is a renowned debunker with a finely honed bullshit detector, so he would no doubt snort at the pretension of this idea, but I really do think that Konitz shows us in what he does a philosophy that could help in all areas of life – he teaches us a way of living in the moment, with all the senses attuned to the now and the new, and that it is best never to repeat oneself, for life is for going relentlessly forward. And from an 83-year-old, it’s a view that you have to take seriously.

Star Eyes, 1983 is 67 minutes and 40 seconds of unfailing forward movement; I am sure this evening’s concert, though its length will be different, will be no less invigorating.

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