From late November into early December, Lee Konitz sightings and hearings were as commonplace as the major snow storms hitting the tri-state area. From his duet appearance with Fred Hersch at Jazz Standard, and the already legendary Gary Peacock run-in with Elvis Costello for Konitz’ 76th birthday at Iridium, it was the Larry Goldings organ trio backing of Konitz at Jazz Gallery that served as a late entry as one of the “Best Shows of the Year”. The early 6:30 pm set presented by the club was overflowing, from New School students to the noticeably balding folks in attendance who brought up Konitz’ association with Lennie Tristano during and between sets. Golding’s trio of Bill Stewart (drums) and Peter Bernstein (guitar) - a modern-day Kenny Burrell of jazzy blues and swing - is a veteran unit that goes back to the organist’s leader debut of over a dozen years ago. Together with Konitz it was an evening of melodic construction, deconstruction, and restoration. Listening to Konitz breezily venture through the changes of “Cherokee” made it quite evident that he has always been one of the standout players of his generation, sounding as modern today as back in the early ‘50s.
Jazz at Lincoln Center presented two weeks of jazz master tributes, the first to the music of Thelonious Monk and the second to Miles Davis featuring trumpeters Eddie Henderson, the young phenom Brandon Lee, and Justin Kisor (Ryan’s younger brother). It was the former of the two events that made daring strides in JALC programming with an evening’s worth of mini-sets by non-pianist soloists interpreting Monk. Gary Bartz created several free-flowing medleys on his alto sax, convincingly throwing in Monk’s characteristic “wrong notes” for authenticity on timeless melodies from “Crepuscule with Nellie” to “Pannonica”. It was Chinese pipa player Min Xiao-Fen, however, that supplied one of the most unique interpretations of Monk I have ever heard, save for kotoist Miya Masaoka’s Monk’s Japanese Folk Song recording six years ago. From “Ask Me Now” to the more obscure “North of Sunset”, recorded appropriately solo by Monk himself, Min took Monk’s music to places it may have never previously visited. And hat’s off to her also for being basically the only performer of the others (Bartz, trombonist Steve Turre, guitarist/vocalist Doug Wamble, drummer/percussionist Albert “Tootie” Heath and bassist Charnett Moffett) who did not do Monk’s ‘greatest hit’, “‘Round Midnight”.
Merkin Hall’s Monday Nites
No Minimum duo piano concert series debuted with Jason Moran and Andrew Hill, offering more an evening of modern classical interaction and improvisation than standard jazz repertoire. Though there was much give and take between the two, Hill and his one-time student Moran, many times played as a single pianist without a single loss of stride as if each were horn players momentarily having to catch their breath. One of the evening’s highlights was Hill’s “Rev. Du Bop”, in which they offered the night’s first glimpse into what effective swingers they each are. Working in different ranges and chordal voicings, the two offered a full variety of colors and notes around the catchy melody. The other evening’s highlight was the second tune of the second set, during which Hill left the stage for Moran’s unaccompanied rendition of Jaki Byard’s “Out Front”. The tension, resolution, and textural playing that Moran offered far surpassed his years.
NOTE: David Adler is taking a two-month reprieve from reporting as the NY@Night columnist. We welcome his return in March, and congratulate him on his January wedding!