Monday, March 30, 2015
Concert Review: The Lee Konitz and Dave Douglas Quintet at the Jazz Standard
Lee Konitz accidentally spat on my plate of shrimp and grits at the Jazz Standard a couple weeks ago. And I ate it.
By arriving an hour before showtime at the New York City venue last week, I secured a $35 seat at a table next to the stage during the legend's four-night stand. Sitting within a few feet of Konitz was a mixed blessing.
The saxophonist, 87, initially appeared to be in a contrary mood. He blew a ripe raspberry after the first selection. I saw the spray hit my plate and felt the moisture on my hands and face.
After Konitz apologized, trumpeter and bandleader Dave Douglas joked that Konitz was hitting on me.
Douglas’ silly inference seemed to infuriate Konitz. Rather than taking his anger out on me, Konitz cross-examined a Japanese journalist who was taking notes and photos. Konitz’ playing and attitude warmed up as the 60-minute set progressed. He also become increasingly assertive.
Every solo by Douglas, pianist Matt Mitchell, bassist Linda Oh and drummer Ches Smith was transformed into a duet as Konitz added sly embellishments on saxophone or sang over each statement.
Konitz’ vocalese was unusual. Instead of scatting or enunciating lyrics, Konitz sang wordless prayers. His incantations felt holy.
Konitz eventually felt lively enough to tell an unfortunate joke.
“What did Barack Obama say before he left the room?” Konitz asked. “I’ll be white black.”
The format was far more mainstream than the exploratory sounds Douglas employed at the Blue Room in Kansas City in 2010 and 2013 and that Konitz applied to a 2006 concert with Bill Frisell at the Folly Theater. In baring both his mind and soul on standards, Konitz offered something far more valuable than fashionable sounds.
The Konitz-enhanced meal, incidentally, was delicious.
(Original image by Plastic Sax.)