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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove

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Deep Lee

Enja ENJ 9517-2




1. Invention
2. Chorale
3, Canon
4. Deep Lee
5. Stella by Starlight
6. Cactus
7. As the Smoke Clears
8. W 86th
9. See the World for the First Time
10. Color
11. Spiders
Lee Konitz - Alto sax
Florian Weber - Piano
Jeff Denson - Bass
Ziv Ravitz - Drums

There is no sign of a generation gap in this album. Recorded last September, three weeks before Lee Konitz turned 80, it puts Lee with a trio of young students from the Berklee College of Music who make up the trio called Minsarah - a Hebrew word that means "prism". A prism is a device for splitting white light into the colours of the spectrum but, I'm afraid to say, there is little colour on this CD. Lee Konitz is celebrated as one of the pioneers of the "cool" school of jazz, but most of the music here is so cool as to be frigid.

With an album like this, the listener may be tempted to start on familiar ground - with the only jazz standard - Stella by Starlight. Unfortunately Konitz avoids stating the melody to give us a reference point but plunges straight into his improvisation. The piano solo keeps closer to the tune we know and love, but there is still a lot of meandering. Exploration is a welcome quality in jazz, but the music wanders so much that it is difficult to get hold of. Restraint is laudable (perhaps a comparatively rare quality in jazz) but this music is so restrained as to feel introverted, buttoned-up: and hence not very accessible to the listener. None of the original compositions (four by Weber, one by Konitz, and two each by Denson and Ravitz) has a memorable melody or even an audible structure that enables you to keep track of what is happening.

Lee Konitz still has that unique vibratoless sound, which was a novel surprise when we heard him playing with the Miles Davis nonet and especially Lennie Tristano in the late forties, but in those groups his lonely sound was balanced by more extrovert players like Warne Marsh. On this CD, the music is mainly restricted to playing which is certainly thoughtful but also inward-looking. Some listeners may appreciate this but it is not to my taste. As the press release says of Konitz, he is "not a player to ignite your feelings with expressiveness".

Tony Augarde

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