Lee Konitz, Improviser

Improvisation is at the heart of  jazz, and throughout its history there have been many great improvisers, but perhaps none has been truer to the ideals of pure improvisation than alto saxophonist Lee Konitz. We recently lost Lee to Covid-19, at the age of 92, after a 75-year career as one our leading saxophonists. In this episode we take a look at how Lee approached improvisation, and how he was inspired by several of his heroes, including Lester Young, Lennie Tristano, and Charlie Parker.


“All the Things You Are” Lee Konitz with Gerry Mulligan
“All the Things You Are” Lee Konitz with Martial Solal
“Lover Man” Lee Konitz with Stan Kenton
“Lover Man” Lee Konitz with Michel Petrucciani
“Too Marvelous for Words” Lee Konitz with Lennie Tristano
“Pound Cake” Lester Young with Count Basie
“Scrapple from the Apple” Charlie Parker
“Scrapple from the Apple” Lee Konitz
“I’ll Remember April” Lee Konitz
“I’ll Remember April” (“Aprilling”) Lee Konitz with Gil Evans
“You Stepped Out of a Dream” Lee Konitz with Warne Marsh
“You Stepped Out of a Dream” Lee Konitz, Brad Mehldau, Charlie Haden
“Body & Soul” Lee Konitz with Alan Broadbent
“Blue Ballad” Lee Konitz
“Subconscious-Lee” Lee Konitz 
“Topsy” Lee Konitz with Warne Marsh

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Published April 16th, 2020 by Bob Hecht

3 thoughts on “Lee Konitz, Improviser”

  1. Lee Konitz has passed on… he was the most original alto saxophonist after Charlie Parker…

    i just spoke with dave frank, the pianist who studied with lennie… anita brown called him… sad to say it’s true… i’ve known lee since 1970, when i began studying with him… 

he also opened major doors for me.. showed me the way to totally intuitive free playing… it happened in one stretch…once, i brought in Birth of the Cool and he played his solo on Move with the record… once i asked him about ear training and he wrote every interval , every chord and every inversion… it was too much for me to take in but i saw that you had to know the material like it was your name…

    i’m really proud of the fact that i once made him laugh… we were at Rich Perry’s gig sitting together at a table… at the end of the night , he wanted to pay his part of the check… i wanted to treat him… “keep your money, ” i said… “get some lessons!”
    he cracked up!

    some of his most famous lines were written for homework during his studies with Lennie Tristano !

    it’s a loss to the entire human race… but his recordings will thrill people as long as there are recordings…

this solo is the reason that i spent my life playing jazz on the alto saxophone… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xUo1zE9LRBo

    lee’s obit


    i miss him already…

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