If Sun Ra is considered the ultimate musical explorer of outer space, then alto saxophonist Lee Konitz must be thought of as one of the great travelers of the cerebral regions (inner space, if you will). He’s a musician involved with investigating the intellectual aspects of jazz improvisation rather than the visceral. Deep Lee, recorded in September 2007, three weeks before Konitz’s 80th birthday, finds him in the company of Minsarah, a progressive Brooklyn-based trio that first came together at Berklee and features pianist Florian Weber, bassist Jeff Denson and drummer Ziv Ravitz. (If you were wondering, “minsarah” is the Hebrew word for “prism.”)
Konitz, one of the most recorded leaders in jazz, particularly in the last few years, has seldom sounded as strong, comfortable and grounded as he does here. Minsarah often has the feeling of the early Paul Bley trios and that loose-knit aura seems to put the altoist in a relaxed zone. The quartet’s renderings of two standards, Konitz’s title track reworking of “How Deep Is the Ocean?” and “Stella by Starlight,” are especially relevant displays of Konitz’s art and the trio’s inspiring sensitivity, while originals by the trio’s members such as “Canon,” “Cactus,” “As the Smoke Clears” and “Spiders” allow the altoist to feel at ease in his search for new creative spaces.
Weber, a German pianist, is rooted in classical music, yet has the free-thinking moves of a jazz player, while American Denson holds things together on bass. Ravitz, an Israeli, will often remind listeners of Paul Motian.