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March 2008

Lee Konitz-Ohad Talmor Big Band
Portology
OmniTone

In truth, this is Portugal’s Orquestra Jazz de Matosinhos with invited guests Konitz and Talmor. Konitz is the principal soloist, he and Talmor the co-composers except for Konitz’s classic “Sound Lee,” and Talmor the arranger. This project follows the related 2006 OmniTone releases of the String Project and the New Nonet, the latter’s performance in Porto, Portugal in 2004 precipitating the Orquestra’s invitation to write and arrange a big-band program devoted to the music of Konitz.

Konitz is superb here, completely engaged, immersed in the music and its possibilities, at one with the Orquestra. Talmor has written arrangements that fully complement Konitz and never overwhelm his characteristic dry, restrained sound and terse, unpredictable improvisations. Talmor is to Konitz what Gil Evans was to Miles.

The altoist is subtly intense on “Sound Lee,” where the brilliant orchestrations repeatedly crest and subside, and guitarist Andrés Fernandes and drummer Mário Barreiros also shine. “June ’05” features a lengthy Konitz solo and a journey through varied, shifting soundscapes, with a concluding section remindful in its Latin tinge of Chico O’Farrill’s work. Konitz plays with great feeling on the sinuous “A New Ballad,” with another exciting arrangement that ignites, moderates and reignites again and again. “Ornetty” contains a spiky theme that skillfully captures the feel of Coleman’s music, with Konitz nonetheless his own uncompromising self. The melody as well as Konitz’s riveting lines on “September 11th” recall Golson’s “I Remember Clifford.”

The five-part “Rhythm Sweet” finds Konitz at his most boppish and bluesy, dropping quotes and consistently lucid. The short final section, “Moderato,” is perhaps the most impressive 1:41 of the CD, with Konitz sizzling at an up tempo, and the Orquestra producing knotty, convoluted, spaced-out phrasings. The extended “Relative Major” includes some dissonant seasonings, a sparse piano interlude and a looping theme, all serving as inspiration for the never-flagging, spirited Konitz.

The appearance of this miraculous CD in Konitz’s 80th year conclusively proves that he is far from diminishing as either a player or composer.

Originally published in March 2008
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