Lee Konitz

Motion (Verve)

Lee Konitz's name may not trigger the household recognition that other jazz icons command, but it should. Although the alto saxophonist was a contemporary of Charlie Parker's, Konitz developed his own airy horn style early on and remained true to his sound throughout an era dominated by Parker and his disciples. He still performs to this day, and his recent stuff still sounds fresh.

But he was arguably at his best on Motion, which sprung from a star-studded 1961 recording session with drummer Elvin Jones and bassist Sonny Dallas. Jones lies low on this one. Although the fiery drummer will forever be associated with the high-octane support he provided John Coltrane during the 1960s, he sounds subdued here. He smolders rather than burns, but still supplies an agitated tempo that suggests he may combust at any moment.

Meanwhile, the seldom-appreciated Dallas bobs and weaves throughout the album, delivering a propulsive, pounding bass backdrop that keeps his colleagues slightly off-balance throughout the disc. He almost steals the show.

Almost. Because Konitz, of course, never for a second loosens his grip on the reigns of this trio. It's his set, after all, and his breezy reed work dominates the disc, in spite of his powerful rhythm section.

This amazing mid-career volley attests to Konitz's innovative sound and ideas. Fans anticipating tried and true covers of the crowd-pleasing warhorses "All of Me" or "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To" won't find them here. Instead, Konitz strips those two songs down to their musical skeletons, converting them into minimalist, noir-ish hymns.

A few years ago, Verve distributed this long-out-of-print session as part of a pricey 3-CD set, full of alternate takes and "bonus" sidebar material. That brand of packaging is aimed at jazz aficionados who have been conditioned to believe overkill is mandatory in reissues. Now Motion is back in its original form, proving that Konitz's tight knit group got it right the first time the album was released. Less was -- and remains -- more.

 
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