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Lee Konitz/Don Friedman/Attila Zoller: Thingin

Konitz, Zoller and Friedman play as one here. Indeed, they do seem to share similar musical backgrounds and values-Konitz and Friedman’s playing is marked by Lennie Tristano-and have worked together previously.

The great, innovative alto saxman Konitz was a charter member of the Tristano school. During the late 1940s and early 1950s he was, with the exception of Charlie Parker, the major modern jazz altoist. However, by 1957 Konitz was already altering his style. He said then, “I’m not as concerned anymore with setting the world on fire with original music.” He went on to talk about how he was more concerned with playing with “feeling.” (Actually, his earlier playing, although subtle, had been full of warmth and lyricism.) The consequence of Konitz’s attitude was that he began using a heavier, more Parker-like tone, which was sometimes kind of whiney, instead of the beautiful Lester Young-like timbre he’d been employing, and improvising so deliberately that his playing not only swung less, but became a bit clumsy rhythmically. Contributing to this was his use of dotted eighth-sixteenth note figures, which gave his improvising a chugging rather than smoothly swinging quality. Konitz remained a great player, but his graceful, virtuoso up-tempo work of 1949 to 1954 became a thing of the past.

Friedman was indirectly influenced by Tristano through Bill Evans, and Zoller played with many Tristanoites in Austria, though his work was more Jimmy Raney-like. Over the years Zoller integrated new ideas into his style and was playing free jazz in the 1960s.

Here these three musicians perform live and seem very relaxed. They play the standard “Alone Together” and improvise on the “All the Things You Are” chord progression during “Thingin.” It’s a pleasure to hear them work. Not only have they all been around for a while, they’ve learned a lot. Their playing is almost cliche-free, and their contrapuntal work hangs together quite well. Friedman, on “Images,” and Zoller, On “Cloisterbells,” play unaccompanied, and are masterful; they never run out of ideas and their playing is always coherent.

In other words, the group puts on a clinic.

Originally Published