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.
Foto by Vanessa Kaukonen
We are losing good ones every day…