Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Lee on Intonation, Jackie, and Critics

The tremendous knowledge and insight shared by Lee Konitz in interviews, available in various print, audio, and video formats, provide invaluable study material for any improvising musician. As just one example, here is a short excerpt from a talk sponsored by Chamber Music America between Konitz and pianist Dan Tepfer. 

Tepfer: "Some people will say, ‘Oh, Lee Konitz plays sharp.’ But in fact, you are able to play more in tune than anybody I’ve ever heard..." 
Konitz: “Isn’t that a nice thing to say?”
Tepfer: “…It’s exactly what you just said: you will play sharp if you feel antisocial, but you’ll also play perfectly in tune if you feel social. I just think the exclusivity of intonation is something that almost nobody uses.” 
Konitz: “Well, that’s the fact, I think. Jackie McLean didn’t want to talk about [it]… I went into a club where he was playing with Cedar Walton’s trio, and the pianist Larry Willis was sitting at the bar in front of me, at the Village Vanguard. And Cedar played a couple of tunes and then called Jackie up, and Jackie was sharp. I mean, no playing around, he was sharp. And so after a little while Larry turned back to me and he said, ‘He can push it in or pull it out, but don’t leave it where it is!’ [Laughter.] And I tried to talk to Jackie afterwards—he didn’t want to talk about it. That was it, that’s the way he heard it, and it’s the way I hear it: sometimes it’s a little bit on the edge, sometimes… But some so-called critic, reviewing a record, said, ‘I can’t stand listening to this man playing flat all the time.’ [Laughter.] Jesus Christ, what could he say about the music after that.So [wagging finger] we can’t depend on those guys …”

The full video is here

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