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Lee Konitz: Another Shade of Blue

Collectors of Lee Konitz who have heard Blue Note’s Alone Together and wanted more music from that 1996 Jazz Bakery meeting with pianist Brad Mehldau and bassist Charlie Haden will probably be pleased with this release. With five more extended improvisations from that performance, Lee continues to remind us of the beauty of his sound and the flowing nature of his lyrical sense, but there is a problem that becomes more evident as time goes on. After the slow, spun-out themeless blues that is the title tune, we hear the equally reflective “Everything Happens to Me,” on which Lee shows more attention to the original melody than he was wont to do in the past. Even slower, Lee’s 16-minute performance of “What’s New?” answers the titular question with broadly shaped harmonic reinvestigations and scores of melodic twists, all of which are sympathetically supported by Brad and Charlie.

“Body and Soul” progresses at such a ruminating snail’s pace that even Billie Holiday would have been hard pressed to pop a finger snap in response. It takes 17 minutes to listen to what each member of the trio had to say on this tune, and in the end one can only think of Coleman Hawkins’ three-minute classic version from 1939. On that recording, there was infinitely more ideational substance, structural unity, harmonic development, and innovative saxophone technique than can be found in the entirety of Lee’s exercise in self-indulgence. The concluding tune, “All of Us,” is the only track in this release that is taken at a moderately rhythmic tempo, but it would be inaccurate to say that it really swings. It is only somewhat less moribund than the other selections.

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