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Lee Konitz/Bill Frisell/Gary Peacock/Joey Baron : Enfants Terribles: Live At The Blue Note

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Even by the high standards alto great Lee Konitz has set for spontaneously remaking songs we’ve heard a million times, this beautifully recorded live performance is brimming with invention and surprise. Much of that owes to the interplay between Konitz and guitarist Bill Frisell, whose framing or extension of the alto saxophonist’s spare inventions with sun-streaked chords and floating single-note lines is a delight.

But this leaderless (and, notably, piano-less) quartet also thrives as a cohesive whole, spreading out in the open field with its spatially minded takes on such classics as “I’ll Remember April” and “Body and Soul.” Breaking down into duos and trios, the musicians rarely indulge in anything so mainstream as comping, establishing fresh parameters while basking in their familiarity with each other. (You get a real sense of mutual engagement here, something you didn’t always get on Konitz’s recent Live at Birdland summit with Brad Mehldau, Charlie Haden and Paul Motian.)

Baron’s contribution shouldn’t be overlooked. His remarkable touch and exceptional range are in full evidence, whether he’s dropping depth charges behind Konitz’s Ornette-like opening notes on “What Is This Thing Called Love?” or changing the atmosphere of “Stella by Starlight” with his flat-textured strokes. Peacock’s lyrical power is felt throughout. There is a youthful quality to the playing, and plenty of humor. “Enfants” Konitz and company are not, but “terrible”-in spirit, you bet.

Originally Published