Jazz Great Lee Konitz, R.I.P.

Alto saxophonist, improv great Lee Konitz who was associated with every style from bebop to avant-garde and especially cool jazz died today at age 92 a victim of the coronavirus.

Konitz had a long association with pianist Lennie Tristano, played on Miles Davis' Birth of the Cool and also and also played on albums produced by arranger/composer Gil Evans. Konitz was better known as a joiner, playing with a wide variety of musicians, rather than as a group leader. He was also fond of improvs around standards. He picked up a clarinet after hearing Benny Goodman. Following the Birth of the Cool sessions he went to California and joined forces big band leader and arranger with Stan Kenton. He later became enamored of playing duets..

In 2009 he was named a National Endowment for the Arts NEA Jazz Master.A sampling of his records include Lee Konitz Inside Hi-Fi (Atlantic 1258) issued in 1956, recorded by Rudy Van Gelder in his Hackensack, NJ home studio, Chet Baker, Lee Konitz In Concert (India Navigation IN 1052), recorded by Bob Cummins in 1982 at Ornette Coleman's Prince Street, N.Y.C. loft (with Ornette "smiling, jumping around with his video camera") and more recently Strings For Holiday, A Tribute to Billie Holiday (Enja 9304-1) recorded March 18th and 19th, 1996 at the Chung King Studios NYC by Jim Anderson live to two-track 20bit digital using a DB Technologies AD122, and mixed to analog tape from which the LP was mastered at BAUER Ludwigsburg, Germany. It's Lee on alto backed by a string section with Matt Wilson on drums. I think I'll play that one now. Of course this is a ridiculously limited discography, but these are the ones on my shelf that I could find.

The photo was at The Consumer Electronics Show, Las Vegas, January 9th, 2008 where Lee played a short live set at the behest of Mark Levinson for a demo of something or other that I can't recall.

R.I.P. Lee Konitz.

shawnwes's picture

Lee Konitz with Warne Marsh remains one of my favourite albums. The epitome of Cool Jazz. Rest well Lee & thanks for all the music.

volvic's picture

Those Dragon recordings are sensational. And wouldn't you know it? I finally got my double vinyl recording of Birth of the Cool today from Blue Note. I know what I'm spinning tonight. RIP great Lee Konitz!!!

Manimaldoug's picture

Sorry to hear, a stone bummer that makes this thing all the more real.RIP

Montpier's picture

Very sad, not too many who first recorded in the 40's still with us. He rarely had a standing group or long term recording deal, perhaps as a result has left us a rich recorded legacy with musicians spanning multiple generations across wide variety of settings from solo to large orchestra. Very few are clunkers; in addition to above, two worth checking out are 1996 trio date 'Alone Together' with Brad Mehldau and Charlie Haden (just reissued at part of Blue Note Tone Poet series) and, for those not completely digital averse, 'Live at the Half Note' 1959 quintet with Marsh and rhythm section of Bill Evans, Jimmy Garrison and Paul Motian. 'Duets' on Milestone (a rarity at the time for an entire album) and 'Motion' on Impulse are also highly recommended.

I have a fond memory of hearing Konitz with Dick Katz probably late 80's at old The West End in Manhattan. It was Memorial Day weekend and not much of an audience, but Konitz was still spellbinding.

thomoz's picture

I have much of Konitz’ catalog in my own collection.

Glad you had the opportunity to share that event with him.
92 isn’t young, I hope his suffering was sort. He will be missed.

Babysharks's picture

One of my favorite jazz artists. RIP

Sabrinah Perkins's picture

We lost another jazz legend. R.I.P Lee Konitz, he will be missed.

TerryNYC's picture

When I was very young I studied with Sal Mosca's best friend, Bob Bianco. Sal was Lee's pianist for years and through that connection I was able to go listen, although under age (and my limit with the bar was two white wines in a night). Lee was so bemused that a teenager was wild about this music that he took a real interest, sitting on the stairs at the end of the stage discussing what I was learning and subtly giving me tips and encouragement. He was not just a great musician, but also one of the nicest persons I've ever met. RIP Lee.

wyoboy's picture

i loved him and will miss him--but all these 90 year olds who are dying -- come on--it's not Covid 19--he already had pneumonia before he got Covid--pneumonia--"the old man's friend"...