Written by Grant Jackson from NPR
On this episode of Piano Jazz, alto saxophonist Lee Konitz stops by to present a master class in improvisation on the standards. Konitz and host Marian McPartland get together for a set that includes “Stella By Starlight,” “Body & Soul” and “All the Things You Are.”
Lee Konitz was born Oct. 13, 1927 in Chicago. He first gained attention as a member of Claude Thornhill’s influential orchestra during the 1940s. He then studied with pianist Lennie Tristano, and found inspiration in his teacher’s long melodic lines. Konitz joined Miles Davis‘ nonet for its groundbreaking Capitol recording sessions, which would become collected into the album Birth of the Cool. He also played on the nonet’s gigs opening for Count Basie at the Royal Roost in New York.
In the early ’50s, Konitz toured Scandinavia and worked with Stan Kenton and his orchestra. Konitz continued to hone his sound as a bandleader; he recorded several duo and trio albums through the ’60s with the likes of Jimmy Giuffre, Marshall Brown and Jim Hall. At a time when much of mainstream jazz had shifted to electric/fusion arrangements, Konitz spent the ’70s exploring acoustic arrangements with his own nonet, further refining the polyphonic cool sound.
Lee Konitz continues to gig and record. Many of his recent projects have explored more free territory. He has an ongoing duo project in which he improvises with the young pianist Dan Tepfer, and in 2011 he released a live album recorded at Birdland with bassist Charlie Haden, pianist Brad Mehldau and the late drummer Paul Motian.
Originally recorded Sept. 6, 1991.