Lee Konitz has been consistently one of the most individual figures in jazz. He’s known primarily as an alto saxophonist, but also plays fine tenor and soprano sax, and has excelled as both as leader and accompanist since the late 1940s. He’s fashioned a unique style, influenced heavily by pianist Lennie Tristano, and has steered clear of being influenced "too much" by alto legend Charlie Parker. While many jazz players find a style or "niche" and work it (to death, in some cases) for the rest of their lives, Konitz has refused to stand still. He’s played with a dizzying assortment of musicians: Miles Davis, Stan Kenton, Charles Mingus, Max Roach, Derek Bailey, Mark Feldman, and recorded unaccompanied and with strings and big bands.
THE REAL.... was recorded live in a jazz club in Pittsburgh, PA in 1957, with players that share fine history with Konitz, like the superb "cool school" guitarist Billy Bauer. The set is mostly standards, ones that the band can relax and swing with ease. Nobody’s coasting, though: Konitz swings with blues-derived aplomb on "My Melancholy Baby." Peter Ind’s bass playing is sturdy and sinuous, and the whole band sets up a swinging groove for Konitz to work out on. Some jazz critics have accused Konitz of being "too cerebral" - listen to the driving closer "Midway" and wonder how anyone could say that. The recording quality throughout is very good - one can hear the clinking of glasses and bottles now and again, but that just adds to the good-time ambiance. My only gripe is that, for a live recording, most tracks have a "fade" ending, leading to the question, "what happened to the other soloists?" It's a reminder of the guys who used to follow Charlie Parker around and record his solos ONLY. Anyway, Konitz fans rejoice! (Neophytes should check out the recent reissue LEE KONITZ WITH WARNE MARSH on Koch Jazz.)