The Prize Winner 1992

Lee Konitz | Photo |

American alto (soprano and tenor) saxophonist, composer, bandleader, and educator. Born Chicago, October 13, 1927.

   The third International JAZZPAR Committee singled out that at a time when Charlie Parker dominated almost every youngster, Konitz grew into one of the most original players in the history of jazz. It really takes the courage of one's conviction to go against such a strong tide. As few other musicians, Konitz has constantly and radically been re-examining his way of expressing himself. Perhaps no other player is less predictable from record to record, from gig to gig, even from number to number - and this without ever loosing his identity.
   In the late 40s Konitz was one of the main stylists in the cool jazz movement, associated with Lennie Tristano and Miles Davis. Through the years, he has played with an impressive number of jazz greats as well as fronting his own groups, including a celebrated nonet. Especially noteworthy is also his cooperation with Tristano alumnus Warne Marsh, his duo interplay with various pianists, his many solo appearances, etc.
   An early influence was the subdued yet marked swing of Lester Young, still today Lee Konitz' favorite musician. But soon the latter's playing was characterized by melodic and harmonic conceptions quite of his own, by extremely long lines with few soft accents and a smooth, deliberately thin sound. In later years his style has become more and more vital and complex, incorporating elements of blues and bop, absorbing inspiration from his great predecessors.
   "Stay away from stock phrases" is still a crux of Konitz' philosophy. He is a real improviser. Those who have had the privilege of being at close quarters with Konitz might very well use words like openness, simplicity, serenity, and maturity about his playing. "A unique and immediately identifiable performer" (Jazz - The Essential Companion, Grafton Books, 1987).

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