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Lee Konitz

Conversations on the Improviser's Art
Andy Hamilton
With a foreword by Joe Lovano, an oral biography of the preeminent alto saxophonist of cool jazz

Description

"Meticulously researched, detailed and documented, this long awaited overview justly establishes Konitz as one of the most consistently brilliant, adventurous and original improvisers in the jazz tradition—a genius as rare as Bird himself."
—John Zorn

"Hamilton's work may well mark the inception of a format new to writing on Western music, one which avoids both the self-aggrandizing of autobiography and the stylized subjectification of biography."
The Wire

"An extraordinary approach to a biography, with the man himself speaking for extended sessions. The main vibration I felt from Lee's words was total honesty, almost to a fault. Konitz shows himself to be an acute observer of the scene, full of wisdom and deep musical insights, relevant to any historical period regardless of style. The asides by noted musicians are beautifully woven throughout the pages. I couldn't put the book down—it is the definition of a living history."
—David Liebman

The preeminent altoist associated with the "cool" school of jazz, Lee Konitz was one of the few saxophonists of his generation to forge a unique sound largely independent of the influence of Charlie Parker. In the late 1940s, Konitz began his career with the Claude Thornhill band and came into contact with Miles Davis, with whom he worked on the legendary Birth of the Cool sessions. Konitz is perhaps best known through his association with Lennie Tristano, under whose influence much of his sound evolved, and for his work with Stan Kenton and Warne Marsh. His recordings have ranged from cool bop to experimental improvisation and have appeared on such labels as Prestige, Atlantic, Verve, and Polydor.

Crafted out of numerous interviews between the author and his subject, the book offers a unique look at the story of Lee Konitz's life and music, detailing Konitz's own insights into his musical education and his experiences with such figures as Miles Davis, Stan Kenton, Warne Marsh, Lennie Tristano, Charles Mingus, Bud Powell, and Bill Evans.

Cover photo: Oskar C. Neubauer

Andy Hamilton is a jazz pianist and contributor to major jazz and contemporary music magazines. He teaches philosophy, and the history and aesthetics of jazz, at Durham University in the United Kingdom. He is also the author of the book Aesthetics and Music (Continuum 2007).

Joe Lovano is a Grammy Award-winning tenor saxophonist. His most recent album is Streams of Expression.

Praise / Awards

  • "Andy Hamilton presents us with a long overdue and much needed look into the world of legendary alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, whose unique approach and meticulous attention to detail has resulted in some of the most perfect, beautiful and emotional improvisations in jazz. Through in-depth interviews and a keen sense of historical perspective, Hamilton gives us an insider's look into the thoughts and working methods of one of jazz's truly legendary geniuses."
    —John Zorn

  • "Although fellow musicians have always held him in the highest regard, Lee Konitz's genius is becoming more understood and appreciated as generations of listeners are introduced to his catalogue of indispensable recordings. Hamilton's book reveals the deep thinking and wry humour of the man.  Konitz displays an almost painful sincerity, and the speaking and the musical voice appear as two facets of the same complex character—the expression of thought and the expression of musical ideas all of a piece."
    —Evan Parker

  • "An extraordinary approach to a biography, with the man himself speaking for extended sessions. The main vibration I felt from Lee's words was total honesty, almost to a fault. Konitz shows himself to be an acute observer of the scene, full of wisdom and deep musical insights, relevant to any historical period regardless of style. The asides by noted musicians are beautifully woven throughout the pages. I couldn' t put the book down—it is the definition of a living history."
    —David Liebman

  • "Experiencing the music of Lee Konitz in the flesh and in different settings is a reminder of what a unique musician he is. This is an equally unique book which, by contrast with some as-told-to autobiographies, beneficially lays bare the subject's thought processes, thanks to the skillful interviewing of Andy Hamilton."
    —Brian Priestley, author of Chasin' The Bird: The Life and Legacy of Charlie Parker and co-author of The Rough Guide to Jazz

  • "...Hamilton's work may well mark the inception of a format new to writing on Western music, one which avoids both the self-aggrandizing of autobiography and the stylized subjectification of biography."
    The Wire

  • ". . . a thoroughly absorbing read: a must-have for Konitz fans but highly recommended for anyone interested in jazz, the art of musical improvisation, and the creative process."
    —Francis Lo Kee, All About Jazz

  • ". . . a fascinating portrait of someone who has developed a distinctive, personal sound on his instrument and remained difficult to categorize. . . . Hamilton was clearly the right man to deal with this complex musician, long admired by fellow players and critics. . . "
    Jazz Notes

  • "There is no more illuminating window into jazz history and aesthetics than the abundant jazz literature containing the first-person testimony of the musicians who created it. Andy Hamilton's [book] jumps to the top of the list."
    Downbeat

  • "There is much useful and subtle discussion . . . peppered with fascinating critical insights. Konitz's voice turns out to be every bit as distinctive as his saxophone playing: once heard, never forgotten."
    —Brian Marley, Signal To Noise

  • "When I saw an early draft of this book, I felt there might be a little too much of [the author] in here, but actually it is only right and proper that there is as much of him as there is. He prods and pushes Lee when he feels he isn't getting much of an answer, and he makes the conversations a genuine two-way discourse. . . . Several of [them] have a tussle to them which makes the book a page-turner. Yes, it's a classic of the literature."
    —Richard Cook, Jazz Review

  • "What has been admirably achieved here is the realization in print of a highly musical, inquisitive mind, one that habitually bucks the cliche."
    —Nic Jones, All About Jazz

Look Inside

Copyright © 2007, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

News, Reviews, Interviews

JazzTimes interview | May 16, 2011

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Product Details

  • 6.125 x 9.25.
  • 320pp.
  • 9 music examples, 8 page (19 B&W photos) photo section.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2007
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11587-7

Add to Cart
  • $75.00 U.S.

  • Paper
  • 2007
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-03217-4

Add to Cart
  • $28.95 U.S.

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