Thursday, November 18, 2004

Lee Konitz Trio - 17/11/2004, Brussels

Lee Konitz - as
Ed Schuller - b
George Schuller - d
(I assume the two Schullers are related, they looked fairly similar)

The long search for a parking spot means I only hear the last two or so songs of the first set (one of which was "Cherokee"). For some reason, the doorman makes entry difficult.

Are you on the list? Did you reserve?

I'm thinking

What are you talking about? This is a bar! Let me pay my five euros and get in, I'm late enough as it is.

The room is pretty full, but not packed, as it was for the Archie Shepp/Amina Claudine Myers duo. A nice, surprisingly young and feminine turnout.

The only amplification is the bass amp, the air was clear, as the crowd had been asked not to smoke: as close to environmental bliss as one can get in a club. At intermission I slip to the front and sit on the floor almost lip-to-lip with the stage, Konitz's horn at times almost within reach.

The first time I saw Konitz, in May, it was a disastruous affair: Konitz was out of it and an attempted unison head with saxophonist Steve Houben had me burst out laughing, that's how bad it was. This time, however, is a different matter altogether.

The second set continues Konitz's usual standards'n'things repertoire. They function like the Jarrett/Peacock/DeJohnette Standards Trio, stringing together non-arranged songs (or, sometimes, fragments of songs) indicated by the leader's unaccompanied intros. For the first half he's brilliant, unfailingly melodic, sing-songy even. Then he starts to tire a little, resorting to more fragmented and shorter phrases.

The Schullers each strike a different pose. Although I'm not enamoured with his sound (being so close, the discrepancy between seeing him pluck strings and hearing the sound coming out of the amp half a meter away is somewhat jarring) Ed assists unselfishly, walking his accompaniment, staying inside in his solos and singing along to them discretely enough. George, however, takes more liberties, just as likely to swing straight-forwardly if busily as to deconstruct the tempo entirely with a nebula of polyrhythms and suspensions. He displays both sides on what might have been "The Night Has 1000 Eyes," to destabilising effect.

An amusing blooper springs up on the next tune ("I'll Remember April" or "April in Paris," I always get them confused): the rhythm section springs in after the intro with a latin beat, to which Konitz reacts by swiftly turning around and calling for fast swing. Later, harmonics on bass lead to the drummer tinkling some bells, which leads to Konitz playing a snippet of "Jingle Bells."