Lee Konitz is one of the most individual alto saxophonists in Jazz, a musician who has always been known for a strong musical curiosity thatís led him to consistently take chances and constantly stretch his creativity.
One of the very few alto players of his generation who did not echo Charlie Parker, Konitz became one of the most important cool saxophonists. During his distinguished nearly half century career, he has emphasized a smooth sound with no vibrato and few overtones, played in an even manner without bebop's jagged, jutting accents, cross-rhythms or inflections. Konitz' lines have always been lengthy, and he has shown the ability to execute masterful harmonic maneuvers in a tight, precise fashion.
The Chicago native made his first records on alto saxophone at age 20 as a member of Claude Thornhill's influential big band. Relocating to New York in 1948, he served an apprenticeship with Lennie Tristano. Tristano's music was not so much cool as rigorous, a move away from the tumult of bebop. Konitz also appeared with Miles Davis' Nonet at the Royal Roost in New York and then recorded with the group. These sessions were later dubbed 'Birth Of The Cool,' although at the time, they were an extension of the music Konitz played with Thornhill.
With Tristano in 1949, along with tenor saxophonist Warne Marsh, he took part in experiments which marked the first tentative steps toward 'free' Jazz. Konitz was also a member of the Stan Kenton Orchestra in 1952 and 1953. Since then he has led his own groups and recorded consistently. In the late '70s Konitz led a notable Nonet and in 1992 he won Norway's prestigious Jazzpar Prize.