Archive for All the things you are

R. I. P. Lee Konitz (1927-2020)

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , , on April 16, 2020 by telescoper

My word this Covid-19 pandemic is having a terrible effect on the Jazz world. I heard this evening that it has now taken from us the great alto saxophonist Lee Konitz at the age of 92 after a career lasting 75 years.

I can’t possibly do justice here to the memory of such a legend but at least I can post one of my favourite tracks of his, a live performance from the 1950s of a tune called Ablution. If Lee Konitz hadn’t announced it at the start the comping of pianist Ronnie Ball would have told you straight away that this is a contrafact built on the chords of the famous Jerome Kern tune All The Things You Are, the unusual chords of which have made it a popular vehicle for jazz musicians to improvise on ever since it was written back in 1939.

In the bebop era it was typical practice to base original compositions on top of the chord sequences of standard tunes in such a way as to hide their foundations from the casual listener. A famous example of this was the Charlie Parker – Dizzy Gillespie session in which they decided to play a variation on the standard Cherokee. It went well until they absent-mindedly played the actual theme of Cherokee at which point there was a cry of anguish from the control room from a producer who had obviously hoped that if they stayed off the original melody he wouldn’t have to pay composer’s royalties. So off they went again called the next take Ko Ko and created one of the Charlie Parker classics.

Although Lee Konitz had a tone much more reminiscent of Paul Desmond than Charlie Parker he had a wonderfully agile and inventive way of playing that had echoes of Bird at the same time as being definitely his own style, as I hope you will agree after listening to this!

Here are just two classic albums that Lee Konitz played on relatively early in his career, if you want to check them out

R.I.P. Lee Konitz (1927-2020)

Sonny Rollins’ letter to Coleman Hawkins

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , on March 4, 2015 by telescoper

I couldn’t resist reblogging this wonderful letter from one great saxophonist, Sonny Rollins, to another, Coleman Hawkins.

The letter was written in 1962. You can find here on Youtube a recording of the two of them playing the great Jerome Kern tune All The Things You Are at the Newport Jazz Festival just a few months later in summer 1963. The title seems to match the sentiments of the letter rather nicely!

Simon Purcell Online

Do read this, a touching letter from Sonny Rollins to Coleman Hawkins in 1962 (from the website www.jazzclef.com). The greatest players possess not only self-discipline and powers of concentration, but generally, great humility.

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Hampton Hawes – The Trio, Vol. 1

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , on March 25, 2014 by telescoper

The old blog has been generating far too much traffic over the last couple of weeks so I thought I’d try to calm things down by posting something about Jazz (which usually scares the traffic away). I was listening this album the other day and thought I’d write about it because the pianist concerned Hampton Hawes is so underrated.

The Trio – Vol. 1  was Hawes’s first LP under his own name and it proved to be the start of a long and successful association with Contemporary Records. Hawes’s playing has been described as a more-or-less literal keyboard transcription of Charlie Parker and indeed his lines do sound more like Parker than those of Bud Powell, the archetypal bebop pianist. Indeed Hawes stated that Powell had never really been influence, or at least not as much of an influence as he had been on the rest of his generation of jazz pianists. Like Charlie Parker, Hawes had a great gift for playing the blues and even when not actually playing standard 12-bar blues material he somehow managed to make almost everything he played sound like the blues; a great example from this album is the ballad Easy Livin’ which Hawes augments by inserting some blues phrases into the melody. There are three “orthodox” blues tracks on the album, although one of them Feelin’ Fine is based on an altered chord progression.

Fast tempi gave Hawes very few problems. On the album he seems completely comfortable maintaining the logic and continuity of his improvisations even while playing at about 80 bars to the minute.  I Got Rhythm is taken at a very brisk pace but Hawes is always master of the situation. The track I’ve picked from Youtube, the great Jerome Kern standard All The Things You Are, the chords of which lurk underneath a great many bebop tunes, is very different, with an out-of-tempo introduction picking up into the jaunty medium pace “bounce” that’s very characteristic of the bebop era.

Throughout the 50s and 60s, Hampton Hawes was head and shoulders above most of his competitors. Red Mitchell (bass) and Chuck Thompson (drums) remained his colleagues for years, which is no doubt why their playing is so together.

 

 

Ablution

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , , on August 26, 2012 by telescoper

I haven’t posted any jazzy bits for a while. I don’t know why. Anyway, I just found this track, called Ablution, by alto saxophonist Lee Konitz . Unless my ears deceive me the pianist on this track is Ronnie Ball (British, by the way) whose comping  makes no attempt to disguise the fact that it is a variation on the famous Jerome Kern tune All The Things You Are, the unusual chords of which have made it a popular vehicle for jazz musicians to improvise on ever since it was written back in 1939. In the bebop era it was typical practice to base original compositions on top of the chord sequences of standard tunes, and this is a prime example although I don’t know in this case whether Lee Konitz managed to get away without paying composer’s royalties!