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Album Review

The 1949 Prestige recordings contained on this album are some of the greatest jazz performances ever, period. One happy fact of this genre that sometimes makes record collecting seem like a neat hobby is that some records are gatherings of many important players from particular scenes. In this case, that means not only is there wonderful playing from alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, but also great contributions from his usual gang of sidekicks, including pianist Lennie Tristano, tenor saxophonist Warne Marsh, and guitarist Billy Bauer. The dozen tunes include a standard that Konitz has done many great interpretations of through his career, "You Go to My Head," but is largely a series of original compositions, some with heads as intricate as the route out of the labyrinth. This is one of these sessions in which there is a sense of wonder in the air, and at the same times the musicians seem to make the impossible seem easy. Some of these impressive feats that are accomplished so casually include the suggestion of several time feels in the course of a series of phrases, something the featured drummers such as Denzil Best react to strongly, audibly salivating with cymbal pulsations. There is also a warmth of tone throughout, in moments when the musicians are improvising together, giving the impression of being seated before a steadily growing mound of shimmering gold coins. The tunes on this album sometimes appear in a different sequence on reissues.

Customer Reviews

An Inaccessible Masterpiece: Requires Multiple Listenings

The tunes included on this record were recorded during 1949-1950. The musicians and the tunes capture a sound that was not simply a musical style but an ideology rich in theory and conscious improvisational spirit. Give it more than one listen--give it more than even three listenings--, and you will discover the beauty in the music being created here.


Born: October 13, 1927 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

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. Early on he studied clarinet, switched to alto, and played with Jerry Wald. Konitz gained some attention for his solos with Claude Thornhill & His Orchestra (1947). He began studying with Lennie Tristano, who had...
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