Another in the series of box sets being released by the Black Saint/Soul Note label. Like the others, the albums have been remastered, for good sound. There's no booklet. The only information is on the back of the period album covers and on the back of the outer box. Each disc is slipped, bare, into a cardboard sleeve reproduction of the original cover, and everything fits inside a substantial cardboard box.
Lee Konitz is a long time well known saxophone player largely from the "cool" school of jazz. But he's also ventured into free jazz territory on occasion, and has also assimilated the be-bop jazz style into his own style. His tone is mildly reminiscent of Johnny Hodges or Lester Young. Thankfully Konitz wasn't captured by the be-bop movement of Charlie Parker (even though he can swings when he wants to), and solidified his style early on. The first album, "Live at Laren" finds Konitz in a nonet. Included in this band is Jimmy Knepper-trombone, Red Rodney-trumpet/flugelhorn, Ronnie Cuber-sax/clarinet, Sam Burtis-trombone/tuba, Billy Hart-drums, Ben Aronov-piano, and Ron Drummond-bass. As live concerts go, this is a pretty good set of jazz (listen to the swinging "April"), and shows Konitz to good effect. The one minor qualm is that Rodney is featured a bit too much to my ears, playing in a be-bop style from the past. But overall this is a good example of jazz from Konitz.
"Ideal Scene" is a quartet consisting of Konitz, Harold Danko-piano, Rufus Reid-bass, and Al Harewood-drums. This set has some fine playing from Konitz and Danko-who seems to be in tune (no pun intended) with these compositions and Konitz. The rhythm section acquits themselves well-supporting Konitz while driving the music forward. Jazz fans will recognize George Russell's "Ezz-thetic", and here it's given a good treatment, with Konitz' horn and the band playing through the melody. Two other standards, "If You Could See Me Now", and "Stella By Starlight" are also (especially "Stella...") well played. This album, too, contains a lot of good jazz-plain and simple. Everyone plays like a well oiled machine, with the results well worth hearing.
"The New York Album" is another quartet, with Konitz (alto/soprano sax, voice) and Danko again, plus Marc Johnson-bass, and Adam Nussbaum-drums. This album is similar in some ways to the previous one. Konitz' horn seems to flow out of him effortlessly-with something approaching emotion-something a player steeped in the "cool" sound wouldn't be known for. Danko plays some fine understated piano, and the rhythm section (especially Nussbaum) is spot on-as good as the bass/drums on the previous album. This album (and perhaps "Ideal Scene") seem to have a slight moodiness. Perhaps it's just my ears, but there seems to be something else here. But, no matter-this is some good jazz. One listen to "Candelight Shadows" will prove how beautifully Konitz can play. "Limehouse Blues" is muscular yet it swings-another highlight. The cover artwork (like others in this box set) was done by Tavia Konitz, and fits the music well.
"Zounds" has Konitz, the fine Kenny Werner-piano/synthesizer, Ron McClure-bass, and Bill Stewart-drums. This is a good example of Konitz venturing into freer territory. There's no real chord changes on some of the tracks, but don't let that scare you off. There's a feeling of excitement throughout these tracks, with the band exploring this music thoroughly. This is a worthwhile listen-especially if your tastes run toward free (but not way outside) territory. "Prelude To A Kiss" is beautiful, straight jazz. The long (14 1/2 minutes) "All Things Considered" combines both toe-tapping and freer jazz into a well integrated whole. Also here are Werner's "Piece For My Dad", and "Soft Lee". Several tracks were written by Konitz and/or Werner. The album is dedicated to the memory of Tavia Konitz and Jack Werner.
"Lunasea" has an expanded band consisting of Konitz, Peggy Stern-piano (nice!), Vic Juris-guitar, Harvie Swartz-bass, Jeff Williams-drums, and Guilherme Franco-percussion. Konitz is in good form, and Stern plays with a confidence and straightforwardness that's very refreshing. Juris, too, fits in nicely here (listen to "For Peggy"), incorporating his guitar into just the right areas of the music. The rhythm section is okay too good-depending on the tune, but overall this is another good effort by Konitz, whose solos are fairly precise, yet sometimes seem to almost drift a bit from the original melody on some tracks. And that's a good thing.
Lee Konitz should be more well known -especially among younger jazz fans. His sound on the soprano sax is clear and cutting. His compositions are well thought out, and his choice of players is usually spot on. This set contains some good playing, and while it's not his best (hear "Motion", "Subconscious-Lee", and his duets from the 70's), every album has some very fine jazz. So what more could you ask for?