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Lee Konitz-Pure Artistic Improvisation

Updated: Apr 17, 2023

Lee Konitz has displayed a unique alto saxophone style that is beloved the world over. It is no secret that Lee learned Charlie Parker solos in his studies with Lennie Tristano; Lee obviously knew Bird's Billie's Bounce solo very well; he and Warne Marsh have been recorded playing the solo verbatim. It's very interesting to see his own four chorus solo statement here written out. This is a well executed solo that includes some simple yet interesting harmonic ideas. Notice how pretty Lee's tone is, and how he never forces the sound nor overstates his melodic ideas.

Billie's Bounce-Lee Konitz from Very Cool, on Youtube

A few general thoughts:

Chorus 1-Begins at Measure 25:

The figure in bar three of this chorus is a nice intervalic gesture that incorporates the major 9 and 6 of the D7 chord before landing squarely on the minor 7th, which then logically resolves to the 3rd of the G7 in bar 5 of the chorus. He then ascends to the 7th of the G7, works his way through the D7 to the turnaround, clearing spelling out the B7 in bar 8, then plays a nice little shape that includes the major 6 and 9 of the A7, and the major 6th of the D7. Notice the use of space in the chorus as well.

Chorus 2-Begins at Measure 37:

Notice the use of neighbor tones over the D7 in bar three of this chorus. He implies the D7b9 in bar 4, and again we see the major 6 being emphasized in bar 6 against the G7. Notice how he squarely lands on the D# of the A7 in bar 10, the #11 of that chord.

Chorus 3-Begins at Measure 49:

A nice imitative phrase begins this chorus in bars 1 and 2, notice again the neighbor tones in bar 5 that precede the b natural in bar 6. He works his way through the D7 in bar 7, again hitting the 6th and 9th, and then clearly works his way to the b9, the B flat, against the A7 in bar 10.

Chorus 4-Begins at Measure 61

A nice descending shape is presented here, which begins with the pickups to this chorus. Notice how this phrase touches the high C, then grabs the B on beat four of bar one, then hits the A and G in bar two, and then concludes with the F# on the downbeat of bar three before landing on the C, the 7th of the D7. Again there are some nice intervals chosen here, look how the line is not really linear but moves about, with a couple of fifths present, the expansion of the major third to a forth in bar 8, and the leap of a major 6th in bar 10 from the A to the F# and back again in the same bar.

Aspiring improviser's can learn a tremendous amount from a simple yet elegant solo like this one from a master such as Lee Konitz. This classic solo should be learned note for note from the recording, etched into the memory banks. There is much to absorb from a solo such as this as learning and transcribing jazz solos serves several purposes. The language and phrasing of the idiom is contained in these solos, the harmonic and rhythmic nuances can be seen and heard, and the true feeling of improvisation in its purest artistic form is there to behold. Like studying a well written classical etude, you will get more than you give if you fully immerse yourself in the solos of a master improviser like Lee Konitz.

Thanks for stopping by my Blog…Markos

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