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RIP Lee Konitz—one of the most imaginative and beautiful improvisers to ever play in the jazz idiom. In 1953, he sat in as the featured soloist with Gerry Mulligan at the Haig in LA. That record, released on Pacific Jazz, is one of my absolute favorites.…
Lee plays his ass off—I’m not sure who in ‘53 could’ve pulled off a performance like this. In a world of Charlie Parker clones, his sound was unique while still using Bird’s bebop grammar. Sheer beauty and genius.
By the late 50s, Lee had moved away from emulation of his great teacher Lennie Tristano’s long, logical and labyrinthine lines. He also used a harsher tone. As he got older he kept moving farther and farther away from Tristano’s influence and toward his own idiomatic sound.
Lennie had a regular gig at the Confucius Chinese Restaurant in Manhattan in the 1950s. Listen to Lee and Lennie play “These Foolish Things” and “Donna Lee”

My favorite Konitz from the later years is the Three Guys band he had with electric bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Paul Motian. Just a fantastic trio of masters who made effortless, gorgeous and fascinating music.
Here’s Tristano with Lee and Warne Marsh playing Lennie’s classic melody line over “Out of Nowhere” changes, “317 E32nd”—named after his address.
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