Lee Konitz and Dan Tepfer: Decade (usual digital outlets)

 |   |  1 min read

Through the Tunnel
Lee Konitz and Dan Tepfer: Decade (usual digital outlets)

At 90, the great saxophonist Lee Konitz – among very few of his generation still standing – has played in almost as many styles of jazz (free to formal) as he has been on record labels (from Enja to Blue Note and ECM).

And of course has played alongside many of his illustrious peers like Miles Davis, Lennie Tristano, Chick Corea, Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, Enrico Rava, Alan Broadbent . . .

He has always gone his own way and remains doing so, as on this reunion – after 10 years – with pianist Dan Tepfer, 55 years his junior and who can be as experimental as Konitz.

Despite his classical chops ( he can play serious Bach), Tepfer too is drawn to free improvisation which is what the duo get into for these pieces. Most of these improvisations – aside from three impromptu “ego” tracks recorded in Konitz' apartment five years ago – were recorded in studio sessions a few years back during which Tepfer might shift his piano to a different place and record a separate part to be added to the mix to create a different feel (on the avant-gardist miniatures Pulsing Orange and Pulsing Green where Tepfer sounds like he is playing a busy Mondrian painting like Broadway Boogie Woogie).

Such sonic experimentation when combined with the pure improv approach reaches a peak on the gloriously unsettling yet somehow magical Through the Tunnel where Konitz offers a gentle yearning tone and closes it out with a croaky, wordless vocal.

Elsewhere is the three-part 9/11 Suite, a series of short meditations, the thoughtful opener being the finest as Tepfer's lighter touch ripples behind Konitz' more dark and woody tone on alto, which sometimes seems as fragile in sentiment as from his age. The second section seems more aggressively scattershot and less focused but the final section reconciles the difficulties and reaches back to the opener's sentiment . . . although Tepfer can nail down single notes with blunt physicality.

There is inventive whimsy here in those three “ego” pieces -- Alter Ego, Egos Alter and Eager Altos – which will appeal to those who like their free jazz light and witty.

In fact here is playful humour as much as muscular playing.

And oddly enough the final piece is a reworking of the standard Body and Soul with the pair conjuring up a very different melody out of it.

Lee Konitz has always possessed a sure sense of melody, even when seeming to avoid it in his more free expressions and much of this album achieves a happy balance between wide open possibilities and the anchor of a tune, albeit only half suggested sometimes.

Surprisingly youthful, edgy and enjoyable playing from a man with seven decades in the game . . . and who has found a kindred spirit in Tepfer.

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Jazz articles index

PIANIST JAY McSHANN: From Charlie Parker to Keith Richards . . .

PIANIST JAY McSHANN: From Charlie Parker to Keith Richards . . .

About 20 years ago I interviewed the legendary Kansas City pianist, Jay McShann, in an Auckland bar. He’d flown in late the previous afternoon, had a “talk-rehearsal” with the... > Read more

KENNY BARRON INTERVIEWED (2017): Time makes a wine

KENNY BARRON INTERVIEWED (2017): Time makes a wine

Speaking from his home in rainy New York, 73-year old jazz pianist, composer and educator Kenny Barron sounds like he's possessed of the energy someone half his age. He is genial, quick, witty,... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

TODAY IN HISTORY: AUGUST 16 1977: The king is gone . . .

TODAY IN HISTORY: AUGUST 16 1977: The king is gone . . .

John Lennon was only half right when, on being told that Elvis Presley had died, said, "Elvis died when he went into the army". In part that was true: before his posting to Germany... > Read more

20,000 DAYS  ON EARTH, a film by IAIN FORSYTH and JANE POLLARD (Madman DVD)

20,000 DAYS ON EARTH, a film by IAIN FORSYTH and JANE POLLARD (Madman DVD)

During a recent Q&A session after a screening of this film about him, Nick Cave mentioned in passing that a sequence involving Bad Seed/Dirty Three/Grinderman band member Warren Ellis wasn't... > Read more