Lee Konitz


One of the most individual of all altoists (and one of the few in the 1950s who did not sound like a cousin of Charlie Parker), the cool-toned Lee Konitz has always had a strong musical curiosity that has led him to consistently take chances and stretch himself, usually quite successfully. Konitz was on Miles Davis's Birth of the Cool Nonet Capitol recordings (1948-50) and recorded with Lennie Tristano's innovative sextet (1949) including the first two free improvisations ever documented. Konitz blended very well with Warne Marsh's tenor (their unisons on "Wow" are miraculous) and would have several reunions with both Tristano and Marsh through the years but he was also interested in finding his own way; by the early '50s he started breaking away from the Tristano school. Konitz toured Scandinavia (1951) where his cool sound was influential and he fit in surprisingly well with Stan Kenton's Orchestra (1952-54), being featured on many charts by Bill Holman and Bill Russo. Konitz was primarily a leader from that point on. He almost retired from music in the early '60s but re-emerged a few years later. His recordings have ranged from cool bop to thoughtful free improvisations and his Milestone set of Duets (1967) is a classic. In the late '70s Konitz led a notable Nonet and in 1992 he won the prestigious Jazzpar Prize.