Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Blast From The Past: Bill Evans & Lee Konitz

Searching through the vast collection of jazz videos on YouTube, I stumbled upon this gem. While certainly an enjoyable video and recording, this rare video is invaluable for quite a few reasons as well.

For one, this video provides a rare glimpse into one of the most interesting partnerships in jazz; one that is documented (not nearly enough) on recordings, but one that is very rarely - if at all - documented on video; this partnership is the one of Bill Evans and Lee Konitz.

It is interesting to watch and hear Bill Evans in a non trio setting, especially in this non trio setting. Those familiar with Evans' music know that the bassist in his trio plays a very interactive role; he rarely walks a bass line. Instead of keeping a pulse for Evans to play on top of, he and Evans play off one another, responding to each other in a very communicative fashion. Rarely do we get to hear Bill Evans playing with a bassist playing in a hard swinging style a la Ray Brown; we do here. It is interesting to hear Evans in this fashion; playing on top of such a bass player, we really get to hear the strong influence Bud Powell had on his playing. We hear the flowing eight note lines of a phenomenal bebop pianist as well as the natural rhythmic syncopation of an extremely hard swinger. It is interesting to hear these sides of Evans' playing.

Another interesting aspect of this video is the song choice. While both Evans and Konitz make use of many of the tunes from the Great American Songbook, "My Melancholy Baby," is a tune that, in many ways, never left the swing era. While very popular during the 1930's, it never became a tune that the beboppers of the 1940's took with them into the modern era. It is interesting to hear these post-bop modernists take on a swing era standard. One of the reasons it is so interesting is because the players here - while obviously inflecting their own personalities into the music - more or less adapt their styles to that of the song - instead of adapting the song to their more known styles. These players have enormous flexibility and this video is a testament to that; that these masterful musicians do not need to play in a certain style to make the music all their own.


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