Lee Konitz - Moods, Zurich, 24 October 2012

Lee Konitz is the mother. Amazing concert ... that somehow felt like a goodbye, too. The next best thing I can think of is late Pres - so darn vulnerable, so totally open ... and in the best moments: sublime. Yet at the same time he was grumpier than last time (March 2010), got on stage telling the sound guy to turn off all the mics and saying he hated that sound in here (he was unamplified, bass had some pick-up and a mic, drums and piano very few mics - it sounded nearly acoustic from where I sat, except for the double bass). Then he addressed the public, explaining that he will play some old standards like "Body and Soul" etc ... adding that some say they don't want to hear that old stuff anymore, but: "screw 'em!" - darn well we do! They played two sets, both around an hour long. In the first, he interrupted a tune (sort of, just for a second), telling the piano player (Florian Weber) "that's enough!", having him and bassist Jeff Denson stop, instead Lee went on in duet with drummer Dan Weiss (the most amazing sub for Ziv Ravitz, the trio's regular drummer). Weber was kind of put off and just comped at very low volume for the rest of set one and it took him a while to find his way into the music again in set two - not sure what Konitz' problem was, as Weber was playing beautifully for my ears.

The sets consisted entirely of standards, including a most beautiful "What's New", as well as "You Don't Know What Love Is", "You Stepped Out of a Dream", "I'll Remember April" and others. They ended set two with an encore, Lee up on the gallery, playing "Cherokee".
Lee seemed to be shorter of breath than last time, although he looked in better shape generally (and stood for long stretches, while last time he played seated most of the time, and just for one, ca. 80 minutes set, when only an hour had been announced). He came in and dropped out of the music often, playing a few bars, then leaving space for Denson/Weiss (and sometimes for Weber) who did a great job, keeping the music very alive and multi-directional (and Weber's comping was great, I found! in his short solo ventures in set two, he played lots of locked chords stuff and some very narrow harmonic things, keeping his hands very close most of the time - a most interesting player, in my book).

Anyway, the great event was of course Lee, who went into dialogue with Weber (in the first half of the first set, he was fed with ideas and took off on most of Weber's phrases and it was a joy to hear), later on with Weiss more often - and Weiss was truly great! Last time I caught him live was with Rudresh Mahanthappa's Indo-Pak Coalition (third of that group was guitar player Rez Abbasi). Lee sounded weak and dangerously close to dropping out of tune at some moments, while at others, the old magic was there, his lines flowing in this weirdly rhythmicized manner that's all his ... and in a few tunes in set two ("What's New" being one of them), he was really singing on his horn - pure, yet fragile beauty.

Anyway, after a break with no music for two hours, I need some Pres (prime Pres, 1936/37) to slowly wind down ... Lee is the true inheritor of Pres' music, the last standard bearer of a forlorn, long-forgotten world.

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