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Lee Konitz: Some New Stuff

Some New Stuff adds to the case that Lee Konitz’s sustained creativity and prolific recording schedule have a chicken and egg relationship. Fronting contrasting rhythm sections, Konitz not only improvises with his trademark sublime mix of subtlety and adventurousness, but also contributes 11 tunes to the date, reinforcing his less heralded status as a resourceful composer.

John Zorn produced this DIW date, pairing Konitz with Masada’s bassist Greg Cohen and drummer Joey Baron. Unsurprisingly, they counter Konitz’s gliding sense of swing with a resolute edge. The surprise is that it is often a distraction. On fast, svelte tunes like “A Noble Tune,” they promote Konitz’s intentions, and when the trio jells, as on the lithe “5th Avenue,” their rapport is close and true. But these tunes are the exception rather than the rule. Baron seems intent on targeting every open space in these trio performances with smart bombs. Exercising just a bit more restraint, Baron was effective with this approach on Konitz’s recent RCA recording for quintet, Sound of Surprise, but here Baron is unabsorbed by the details of a larger band, and mixed so hot at times as to all but overwhelm Konitz’s high register at a few key points. Additionally, Cohen, who can be supple and nimble, often plows through changes that should be jostled at most. Konitz is mostly unperturbed, perhaps determined not to let his well-etched statements to become collateral damage.

Originally Published