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Duos with Lee

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5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Audio CD, July 28, 2009
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The best way to hone a craft is through apprenticeship to a master. Occasionally, there is a give and take between the two involved that can foster mutual growth and exploration. Legendary saxophonist Lee Konitz has never shied from opportunities to play with far younger musicians to both challenge himself and to pass on knowledge garnered over his extraordinary career. On the new CD Duos With Lee, Konitz partners with an extremely talented musician 50 years his junior, pianist Dan Tepfer. Konitz is no stranger to duo recordings and finds a receptive accomplice in Tepfer who can follow KonitzÕs renowned melodic flights and provide his own intriguing ruminations. While KonitzÕs career is well known, Tepfer is an up and coming performer who has already received much critical attention. The Brooklyn based pianist has collaborated with a number of highly regarded musicians including Steve Lacy, Bob Brookmeyer and Charles McPherson. Duos With Lee finds two musicians musicians at two very different points of their careers joining together to improvise and make a musical statement.

Review

Sixty-plus years into his recording career, alto saxophonist Lee Konitz still seeks challenges. The latest is this collection of improvised musical conversations with the young pianist Dan Tepfer. Generations and even geography (Tepfer is a Parisian-born American) may separate these two, but each is like-minded in choices of dynamic and texture, complimentary playing and use of space. This is a program of short pieces and miniatures - as brief as 1:13 ("Elande No. 5") and as long as 7:09 (the forgotten pop tune "Trees"). Tepfer and Konitz seem conscious of exploring but not overworking a motif. They largely succeed on both counts.

Through his participation in Lennie Tristano's groundbreaking free sides for Capitol in 1949, Konitz was in on the ground floor of the off-the-page music. His participation in these aleatory exchanges should surprise no one. Nor should the fact that his flights consist of melodic linear fragments and epigrams. There are no shrieks, screams, smears or breast-beating from Konitz. Likewise, Tepfer eschews jarring dissonances, gratuitous clusters or poundings. Both players have the ability to disappear into the music as they're making it.

Tepfer's classical background is readily apparent in his well-ordered and evenly applied playing. His introduction to the solo reconfiguring of "Trees" has the air of a well-crafted nocturne. In the duos, he's deferential, often establishing a pulse with a repeated left-hand figure. Yet while Konitz floats airily over this bedrock, Tepfer's right hand interacts with the alto. Taste and self-control is a shared virtue.

Though preconception is avoided, melody - and familiar changes - is inevitable for the dry-toned Konitz. "No. 10" begins as an oblique, no-tempo search, but it concludes with a strange reworking of Jerome Kern's "Why Do I Love You?" That fidelity to standards, even as recessed as it is here, is just one of the many qualities that will reward the thoughtful listener.
- Kirk Silsbee --DownBeat - Jan. 2010

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