Lee Konitz with the Miles Black Trio

Jazz at the Cultch Series


 

 

Date 5 August 2005 at 20.00 Venue Vancouver East Cultural Centre

Reviewer Kulpreet Sasan


Alto Saxophonist Lee Konitz's show was expected to be the highlight of the Festival Vancouver QLT Jazz at the Clutch Series. After all, Konitz has had a rather prolific career in modern jazz, having worked with Gil Evans, Miles Davis, and Stan Kenton among other luminaries. Combine his varied musical stylings and catalogue with the sold-out intimate setting of the Van East Cultural Center, and expectations for a great night out would be duly justified.

And the show certainly didn't disappoint. From the moment Konitz came on stage with the Vancouver-based Miles Black Trio, and played the first few notes, the audience was hooked. His soft controlled timbre combined with the trioís efficient playing to create a cozy, intimate vibe that suited the venue perfectly.

Lee Konitz partook in minimal banter throughout the evening, preferring to let his instrument do the talking. His sound is soft, husky, and feral but laid back: think kitten playing with yarn, better yet lion cubs playing with a rolled-up ball python. What initially strikes one as comforting does not completely mask the menace and power within that emerges in momentary hot flashes. Itís just an instantaneous experience: suddenly the balance between grace and peril is laid bare.

There were no real down parts of the show. The solos were sharp, tactful, and elegant, and the music itself is the type you want to luxuriate with on a Sunday morning. You can almost imagine yourself taking a bit too long to get out of bed, and making a luxurious and decadent breakfast in the streaming sunlight.


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Konitizís runs were sharp and focused; there was no lingering about, but a dedication to the themes at hand, a pulling away until only the essence remained. This was framed here and there by some baroque curlicues.

A few words about the very able Miles Black Trio. Pianist Miles Black played with tremendous refrain all throughout the night. He laid back to allow Konitz the freedom to run up and down the scale. Black chooses his spots carefully and played with incredible refrain and minimalist taste. There was however no holding back the groove created by bassist Miles Hill and drummer Dave Robbins.

Seemingly aware of the unique opportunity of playing with Konitz, they pushed the master, and put their full spectrum of skills out on display. They were in synch and relished the opportunity to invigorate Konitzís playing. Their ability to lay down raunchy propulsive rhythms and the controlled energy, blended effortlessly with Konitzís laidback stylings. Hill in particular wowed the crowd with an early solo that had the audience in stupour.

The concert, a little over ninety minutes, left the audience wanting more. Rising up the audience members recalled Lee for a feature solo. He didnít disappoint, pulling elegant and intimate melodies from his instrument and creating a kind of Zen-like meditative stillness and contentment.

© 2005 Kulpreet Sasan


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