Portrait of the artist in modern mufti

Portrait of the artist in modern mufti

Foto by Vanessa Kaukonen

During this time of pandemic stress none of us are untouched. My family and I are still healthy by the grace of G_d and aside from hemorrhaging money I am only losing time. The money I can make back if I love long enough… the time is gone forever. This is a statement of fact not a whining complaint. Believe me, I know it could truly be a lot worse. I was going down to my little studio today to get some guitars I will be using tomorrow for our Eight PM show (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pImqCWpu_Hw) and I had Fresh Air on NPR coming at me from my truck radio. I found out the Lee Konitz, the great sax player, composer, improvisationist and more passed away on April 15, 2020 at the age of 92. Like so many, he was felled by the Corona Virus. In 1963 when I had barely been in California for a year I had a friend named Steve Schuster who I met through my brother. Steve was really the first true jazz cat I ever met and he probably doesn’t know this, but whatever free music spirit I have been able to cultivate may well have started with him. In any case, Steve, Paul Kantner, David Frieberg, Sherry Snow and a gaggle of others were all circulating in the South Bay at this time. We were always trying to find interesting things to listen to. Steve found out that Lee Konitz was playing weekly in a pizza place somewhere nearby and he allowed that this was an artist I needed to hear. Pizza and beer and world class jazz… what’s not to like?

I’m not a jazz musician and I have no aspiration to become one. It’s a little late in the game to be changing horses in midstream but I have always admired the disciplined freedom that good jazz offers. However you want to categorize what it is that I do, most of the time I play songs and songs, by their nature, have to be the way they have to be. In Jefferson Airplane so many years ago my colleagues brought beautiful and outlandish asymmetrical music to the table and allowed me to simply blow until I found a part that fit, and a song was born. I think that listening to Lee in that pizza joint showed me live and in real time what could be accomplished with a tune.

It’s been many years since I listened to Lee but I was shocked and saddened to find he was gone. I think sometimes we expect the pillars of our youth to always be with us. It looks like his last recording was in 2018 on Verve with Dan Tepfer. Good stuff Lee! At the end of the Fresh Air segment the Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead talked about Lee as the master of ‘The long, lucid improvised line!’


Time to go back to the record collection.

Maverick, in splendiferous, familial isolation.

Maverick, in splendiferous, familial isolation.

Foto by Vanessa Kaukonen

We are losing good ones every day…


  1. Comment made on May 1, 2020 by Sian Steed

    Thank you, Jorma, for your wonderful site. May you and yours stay safe.

  2. Comment made on April 27, 2020 by Walter L. hetfield

    Lee Konitz was the example the Miles Davis used in a famous interview as to his supposed prejudice about playing with white musicians. I think Miles’ quote was “I don’t care if a dude is purple with green breath as long as he can swing.” Lee and Miles played together on the seminal “Birth of the Cool” sessions. RIP Mr. Lee

  3. Comment made on April 25, 2020 by Judge Jim

    I got to see Elvin Jones and the Jazz Machine at the Bottom Line around 1981 – that guy was smokin’ – I can’t play it but I can dig some of it –

  4. Comment made on April 25, 2020 by Ed

    “Silver Dagger”? Can’t say you don’t know it! (I have the LP if refresher needed…)

    And the up-tempo way The Reverend does “You Got to Move” is really great.

  5. Comment made on April 25, 2020 by cgeorgas

    Linda, that is. “My wife” looked kinda clinical after it got put down on the page.

  6. Comment made on April 25, 2020 by cgeorgas

    True Religion is my wife’s favorite.

  7. Comment made on April 25, 2020 by cgeorgas

    I don’t know if it’s a haint or what, but I’m havin’ a hell of a time gettin’ a post on here.

    That said, the acute nature and increasing frequency of loss to artists across all expressions is saddening to me. The procession of souls through this world is something we all accept as the natural way of things. Baked into the cake, as it were. This sudden acceleration caused by a natural phenomenon man can’t yet cure adds disbelief to the sadness of loss. Makes it a little harder to process for me.

  8. Comment made on April 25, 2020 by cgeorgas

    Am I there?

  9. Comment made on April 25, 2020 by johno

    i heard that you were looking for requests. How about “Ain’t in No Hurry” or “New Song(for the Morning) tonight.
    Also heard that Jack might show up next week.

  10. Comment made on April 25, 2020 by rich l

    another jazz observation…

    If you ever get a chance, read the Mark Knopfler interview on how the song “Sultans of Swing’ came to be. Ill give you the Cliff Note’s version here.

    Knofler was walking through the streets of London on a rainy night and chanced upon a bar that played jazz. He walked in, mainly to get out of the rain. He was treated to, in his words, “A band that was terrible at jazz.” You could lmost feel his pain hen he described the band.

    At any rate, when the band had finhsed that night, the leader stepped up to the mic and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, thanks for coming out tonight. We are, the sultans of swing.”

    Indeed, coming out of the rain to hear the jazz go down!

  11. Comment made on April 25, 2020 by rich l

    Tom, I would intend to agree with you on that observation about jazz players not playing solo. However, I was at a Bull’s game once, it was on MLK day, and a saxophonist walked to center court to play the national anthem. I remember thinking to myself, I wonder where this is going?

    I have never hear a better rendition of the anthem, (and yes I did see Hot Tuna’s at the Warriors game!), than that afternoon. He played more notes than Carter has pills. By the time he as finished, he had whipped the crowd into a pirhana like frenzy! Blow baby, blow!

  12. Comment made on April 24, 2020 by Tom

    Rad Mask. Tough exterior, gentle inside.

  13. Comment made on April 24, 2020 by Tom

    God bless Mr. Lee Konitz. Pizza and Jazz.

    The great thing about finger picking is that by doing it well, one can present, bass, melody, rhythm, and licks ALL BY ONESELF. Add voice and boom, a one man band, and a sound that moves like a well oiled machine/train/bus… cause someone has to drive the bus.

    I never saw a great one man jazz act/show and I bet jazz players don’t got off playing solo. Solo guitar players can get off. I would say jazz pianists and guitarists can pull off remarkable blends of sounds and musical ideas.

    Finger pickers, with good tone, time, fresh and bright stings, played on even a modest guitar, ok a with a little reverb from a Fishman can sound like so much more. Finger pickers turn heads.

    Glad Quah was around when I was in High School. You and Jack produced a beauty.

    Solitary Flyin’

  14. Comment made on April 24, 2020 by eaglesteve

    Good dog……good boy

  15. Comment made on April 24, 2020 by Zebra

    At a very young age I got to see all those Fill;more East gigs in the late 60’s which were truly magical with infinite possibilities.Amazing chemistry among 6 people with different musical backgrounds.Where it was a great attribute to have a great Jazz drummer who could make folk music swing!

  16. Comment made on April 24, 2020 by John R.

    Why am I not the slightest bit surprised that you would dig him, Jorma? I only saw Lee Konitz once, back in 1990, and even then he was a living legend.

  17. Comment made on April 24, 2020 by cgeorgas


  18. Comment made on April 24, 2020 by Brian Doyle

    That asymmetrical jazz element came from Kantner…It registers in the chime tones he gets from his Rickenbacker and his general concept all together… There was a brief but profound window of a weird mix of conceptual 60’s art, beat culture, folk, that were fueled and inspired by LSD which was the baseball steroids of its time as far as major league entertainers and musicians…It didn’t hurt to have a really pretty singer who went places that most singers would crash and burn but managed to pull it off, even if not in perfect key all the time…Unmatched when it was however…

  19. Comment made on April 24, 2020 by Ed Greene

    thank you again for being so extra good to us and sharing even more of your life and times. The music is medicine and magic and just what we need.

  20. Comment made on April 24, 2020 by richard

    ribs still cookin down kraut getting there. bout 7?

  21. Comment made on April 24, 2020 by johno

    Sounds good.
    What time is dinner?

  22. Comment made on April 24, 2020 by richard

    polish night here tonight sauerkraut cooked down with ribs and peierogies. and yea sour cream too. comfort food. have good weekend.

Write a Reply or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *