The Real Lee Konitz (1958)

Sample (long):Lee Konitz “Pennies in Minor“.

Recorded in 1958 “live” at the Midway Lounge, Pittsburg, by Lee’s bass player Peter Ind, who by all accounts started a reel to reel tape running in the basement, and ran up stairs into the club to start playing. What you get sounds not unlike a bootleg, as it has not been “actively engineered” once the tape started rolling. Tracks stop dead when someone made an artistic decision to cut, as they thought the solo following wasn’t up to scratch – no second takes in a live setting.

By the 1960’s Ind had created his own recording studio in New York, and recordings of Konitz sound a lot better than here, which is a bit muffled, with an imbalance between the volume of instruments, drums poorly miked, and a lack of presence in the top-end,  perhaps predictably from a bass player turned sound engineer.

None of the rough-at-the-edges production detracts from the superb alto playing from Konitz, with his long flowing phrases, effortless twists and melodic turns, ornate flourishes and constant drive.This pairs elegantly with guitarist Billy Bauer’s attractive linear runs, picking out the melody and maintaining syncopation with the drums. If British-born Peter Ind was at this stage not much of a sound engineer, he nevertheless played bass better than Rudy Van Gelder.

The usual quality heavy pressing on UK London (Crimson/Silver label) is not enough to overcome the weaknesses in the original source tape, and poor proof reading results in the sample track being titled on the label as  “Pennies in Monor“, which sounds more Terry Pratchett than Lee Konitz.  “The Real Lee Konitz”  nevertheless serves up a rich helping of good music, and adds your appreciation of  Konitz’s fine playing, which is no bad thing.

The third of Konitz’s essential 1950’s recordings “Very Cool Lee Konitz” on Verve (original  DG) is hopefully in the post, and cost considerably more than this one, due to the seller tagging the dreaded word “RARE” on to the description. That word is like Viagra to collectors – guaranteed to push up the price of anything – and it did. Subject for a future post (Cool Konitz, not Viagra).

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