Lee Konitz and Bill Evans ‘You and Lee’/’Lee Konitz meets JImmy Giuffre’ (American Jazz Classics) 4/5

lee-konitz-bill-evansBill Evans as leader of a superlative piano trio that changed the very way in which we perceive at once the logic and sound of that musical formation has been well documented and rightly so. However, his sideman duties invariably tend to be neglected and that is a great pity since there are some memorable sides that require a re-examination of his work as a whole. That is where this latest re-issue from AJC serves an extremely useful purpose, thereby enabling the listener to compare and contrast two recordings that both Evans and Lee Konitz feature on here, with the second further showcasing the highly individual talents of arranger and multi-reedist Jimmy Giuffre, who has been wrongly dismissed in some quarters as an arch-traditionalist, but in reality was anything but. The first of these albums, ‘You and Lee’ (both originally on the Verve label and dating from 1959), is the more conventional of the two, focusing on the standard repertoire and with an excellent line-up of Sonny Dallas on bass and Roy Haynes on drums. It is the great American Songbook which serves as the major inspiration on this occasion and that means quality material written by the likes of Arlen and Mercer, Ellington, Rodgers and Hart, not forgetting the vastly talented Ned Washington. Stand out interpretations include an engaging ‘You’re clear out of this world’ and a relaxing ‘The more I see you’. The second album, ‘Lee Konitz meets Jimmy Giuffre’, is more experimental in nature and was formerly available on a late 1990s 2 CD set for Verve that basically assembled some of the Third Stream collaborations of jazz and classical with strings incorporated. It is this album that is the more cohesive and challenging of the two and for this recording, alongside pieces written by the Gershwin brothers and Hammerstein and Kern, we find in addition three meaty originals. The rhythm section comprised Buddy Clark on bass and Ronnie Free on drums, but of great interest is the substantially extended reed section that includes Konitz’s long-time musical partner Warne Marsh as well as Giuffre himself on baritone saxophone and arranging duties. It was clear that the two leaders were keen to break out of the standards mode and this is reflected in the modernistic sounding ‘Cork ‘n’ Rib’, composed by Konitz and Giuffre’s two offerings, ‘Somp’m outa’ nothin’ and ‘Uncharted’. What is fascinating is how Evans merges into the greater whole as if he is taking on board the innovatory work he is involved in. Evans would likewise record in the mid-late 1950s with George Russell and that work is well worth re-investigating. There are no bonus cuts, but instead a brief interview with Lee Konitz dating from 1998 as well as new liner notes and clearly printed original album liner notes that includes an extended review from noted British jazz critic Leonard feather on the former album.

Tim Stenhouse