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on 16 May 2011
Eighty-three or not, the American composer/saxophonist Lee Konitz never seems to lose his enthusiasm for new musical situations.
On this one, he's shooting the breeze with Dave Liebman, a sax master of a later generation (though they were both Miles Davis employees, Konitz for "Birth of The Cool" in 1948-51, Liebman with the early electric bands in 1972-74) and the versatile pianist Richie Beirach.
Given the sparse lineup and the devotion of all three players to floating improv melody and counterpoint free of the songs and harmonies they're based on, this is inevitably a pretty distilled jazz exercise that favours practised listeners.
But it's the most human and humane of encounters.
Beirach has a shrewd awareness of when the free-fall dances of his partners could use the odd bluesy chord-turn or harmony-anchoring chord, and his tender duet with Konitz on their impromptu" Universal Lament" (with the saxist unusually playing soprano, but massaging it into the alto's tonality) is wonderful.
The songs are classic standards and originals.
"Body and Sou" opens like two birds intoning their own approximation to the refrain, and "What Is This Thing Called Love" grippingly balances Liebman's tenor grittiness, Konitz's gauzy sound and Beirach's hard-swinging punch.
J. Fordham
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