For the first lesson I took with Lee, he pulled out the Sinatra album Songs for Swingin’ Lovers! from ’56. That’s one of the great Sinatra/Nelson Riddle records, with “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” Lee said, “Here – take this home. Learn one of these tunes, exactly the way Sinatra sings it.” I learned to sing along with the record with all the time feel and inflections and everything. It’s a really musical and emotional experience that I still use with students, because it gets you away from the instrument. It gets you thinking like a singer, but also it just gets you totally away from the mechanical and just into the emotional and just purely musical.After my first lesson he gave me the changes to “Stella by Starlight” and we worked on that for two months. Lee said, “Alright, for this week, you’re gonna improvise on ‘Stella’ but only using the chord tones and only using whole notes.” The next week, “Okay, now you can use half notes”; following week – “now you can use quarter notes…now eighth notes…now eighth-note triplets, now sixteenth notes…alright, now you can mix it up….now –go back and start doing the whole thing over again with one rhythmic unit at a time, but this time you can use the scalar tones.” You really learned the tune! And you learned the idea of improvising as composition, getting away from dumb licks and stock shit of any kind, which of course is Lee Konitz exemplified.
Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Lee Konitz's Pedagogy
Bill Kirchner describes lessons with Lee Konitz, from an interview with Ethan Iverson: