Jazz Weekly

Playscape Sound-Lee Plays the Music of Lee Konitz Geestgronden GG 021

Sound-Lee is made up of four Dutch musicians who had an interest in Konitz, Tristano and their circle long before this CD was organized.

Pianist Guus Janssen, whose work encompasses opera and orchestral work as well as improv, has said that "Tristano's style fit me like my pants, but then you have to wear the pants." Yet here in a tribute to the American pianist's first and most famous acolyte -- and the one who was the first to break with Tristano -- Janssen introduces influences that the inflexible Tristano would never have countered.

Janssen's brother -- and long- time playing partner -- drummer Wim, and bassist Raoul van der Weide, who has worked with everyone from pianist Burton Greene to trombonist Joost Buis's eight-piece Astronotes Extended, are along for the ride.

In the unenviable role of playing Konitz to Janssen's Tristano is the now Boston-based alto man Jorrit Dijkstra, who previously has involved himself in difficult but rewarding pitch-shifting solo saxophone and lyricon work and with a trio immersed in electronics and sampling. Yet he was already studying Konitz's work in the mid-1990s when Janssen first met him. On this CD he too brings extended techniques and antithetical jazz references to Konitz's Tristano/Cool school oeuvre.

Unlike some CDs, the 70-minutes program flashes by as if it's half the length, perhaps thanks to the pop melodies underlying many of Tristano's and Konitz's pieces.

But the treatment here is tough enough to put an edge on the proceedings. For instance on "Ablution," which was Tristano and Konitz's recasting of "All The Things You Are" not only can you sense the original tune, but also the bop line underneath it. Creating melodies in both hands that end with an EuroImprov turnaround, Janssen's work is doubled by Dijkstra's squeals and trills in the latter half of the track. Then there's a speedy opening of "Paolo-Alto," where the saxman's deeper tones, near screeches, honklets and spetrofluctuation not only excavate the artifacts from "Strike Up The Band," but seems to introducing "I Want To Be Happy" as well. However, the reedist's extended techniques are something from which Konitz still stays away.

Meanwhile in his corner, the pianist seems to be playing boogie woogie figures, something the cerebral Tristano would likely have frowned upon in his teaching days; while the drummer figuratively tap dances on his drum heads. Expressing himself on the tippy-top treble keys, Janssen replicates real honky-tonk stylings at the end of his solo.

Dijkstra is by choice a sloppier and harsher player than Konitz, something that's made clear on his own "Near-Lee." A hand-clapper that features Latinesque rhythms, the saxophonist starts off his solo with blaring duck sounds, modulates to a fluffy vibrato, then slides up and down the scale, with more double tonguing, slurs and burrs that any Tristanoite could imagine.

Pianist Janssen slides and strums chords, creating tiny Îtudes that seem to go off on tangents than circle back to the main theme. Although the drum solo almost loses the musical thread, Dijkstra's turnaround reprises the theme and gets everyone back on track.

On the andante "Ice Cream Konitz," individual notes are emphasized the way tenor saxist Charlie Rouse did when working with Monk. And Janssen,who seems to mix 19th century impressionism with splashing octaves during his solo here, is even more Monkish than in other places. Rococo legit formalism works in lockstep with tremolo syncopation on "Kary's Trance" to such an extent that despite a waterfall of notes, the pianist seems to be channeling Monk not Tristano. And is that "Mysterioso" that gets quoted on "Hi Beck?" It certainly sounds like Monk's music with its behind-the-beat effects.Perhaps that's why Sound Lee works so well.

Despite the delineated homage, the four aren't straightjacketed into the Tristano/Konitz style, but definitely include outside and more modern influences.

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