LEE KONITZ, LOCKJAW DAVIS, JIMMIE ROWLES, BUCKY PIZZARELLI, RED MITCHELL, SHELLY MANNE (Nice 7.9.78) — a second take.

Note: the first version of this post was completely in chaos: the audio was Konitz and colleagues but the video was the World’s Greatest Jazz Band — enough to make anyone race for Dramamine. I was informed by several attentive readers, withdrew everything for repairs, and hope it is now brought into unity. Apologies! Barney Bigard’s hand gesture at the start of the video (the last seconds of his set) conveys my feelings about technical difficulties, especially when they leap right past SNAFU to become totally FUBAR.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is lee-konitz-for-selmer.jpeg

“Strange bandfellows?” you say. I think some festival producers operate on the principle of the one Unexpected Element creating a great Chemical Reaction, that if you line up seven musicians who often play together, you might get routines. But add someone unusual and you might get the energy that jam sessions are supposed to produce from artists charged by new approaches. Or, perhaps cynically, it could be that novelty draws audiences: “I never heard X play with Y: I’ve got to hear this!”

Here are Lee Konitz, alto saxophone; Jimmie Rowles, piano; Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, tenor saxophone; Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; Red Mitchell, string bass; Shelly Manne, drums, placed together at the Grande Parade du Jazz on July 9, 1978.

I’m not ranking these remarkable musicians, but this is a group of players who hadn’t always been associated in the past: yes to Konitz and Rowles, Rowles and Mitchell; Bucky and Shelly played with everyone. But Lockjaw comes from another Venn diagram.

I can imagine Lee, who was strong-willed, thinking, “What am I supposed to do with this group?” and I wonder if that’s why he asked Shelly to improvise a solo interlude, why he chose to begin the set with a duet with Bucky — rather than attempting to get everyone together to play familiar tunes (as they eventually do). At times it feels like carpooling, where Thelma wants to eat her sardine sandwich at 8 AM to the discomfort of everyone else in the minivan. But sets are finite, and professionals make the best of it.

And if any of the above sounds ungracious, I know what a privilege it was to be on the same planet as these artists (I saw Bucky, Lee, and Jimmie at close range) and how, forty-plus years later, they seem surrounded by radiance.


The songs are INVITATION Lee – Bucky / WAVE / THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU Bucky, solo / IMPROVISATION Shelly, solo / COOL BLUES, which has been shared in whole and part on YouTube, but this, I believe, is the first airing of the complete set.

All of them, each of them, completely irreplaceable.

May your happiness increase!

4 responses to “LEE KONITZ, LOCKJAW DAVIS, JIMMIE ROWLES, BUCKY PIZZARELLI, RED MITCHELL, SHELLY MANNE (Nice 7.9.78) — a second take.

  1. Sordoni III, Andrew

    Thanks Michael,
    This article has it all for me, worthwhile content, perspective and the elusive magic that is characteristic of jazz.
    Regards,
    Andrew

    Andrew J. Sordoni, III
    45 Owen Street
    Forty Fort, PA 18704
    (570) 283-6202

  2. Thank you, Andrew! We owe each other a phone call . . . but no pressure.

  3. Michael, Hope you and your’s are safe, vaxed and sound. When I read your post today, it reminded me of an interaction I had with Lee on a soundtrack I did with him for my Kerouac film called “Lowell Blues. ” Some friends had put together a track to accompany the reading of selected Kerouac bit’s from primarily “Dr. Sax.” I had some great artists and writers read Gregory Corso, Robert Creeley, Carolyn Cassidy, David Amram and others. The bed provided an atmosphere for the voices. I pitched Lee about blowing over the ambient audio bed. He liked the idea and agreed. I sent me the track. When he got the track he called me and said “this is some ‘really corny’ stuff.” I thought he was going to bail. He went on to say but my wife says I should do it and a trust her instincts. The lines he blew brought beauty, grace and a smile to my face.

    Covid put President of Beauty back a few notches but I’m still in the game. Hope to get all the animation done this summer if I’m lucky. I’m very happy to report that I was able to get Joy Harjo to narrate!!! Thanks for your support. cheers, Henry

  4. I don’t hear anything at all incongruous.

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