Category: K

Three 1976 Lee Konitz interviews

LeeKonitzToday, three 1976 interviews with the great altoist Lee Konitz. I could listen to Konitz talk about playing with Miles and studying with Lennie Tristano all day! In addition to those topics, The iconic saxophonist discusses his early days in Chicago, Chet Baker, teaching, the jazz scene in Europe, and plenty more, From the first interview, about Tristano:

Well I’d studied with Lennie earlier, actually – when I was fifteen, in Chicago. One of the great things I learned was: how much of a discipline this music calls for. And that it’s possible, through picking important people and learning as much as possible about them, to go through the motions of playing this music. As with any art form, I think you try to go through the motion. You find out what it’s like to paint like Van Gogh, play like Charlie Parker, and then, if it’s possible, you go on, use that energy and that information, and do something of your own with it. If not, at least you’ve had that experience.

Click here to read Interview One: Speaks His Mind

Click here to read Interview Two: On Jazz Form

Click here to read Interview Three: Looking at the Scene

—Peter Blasevick

The Jazz Session #76: Steve Kuhn

steveKuhnHappy 76th birthday to the great Steve Kuhn! Jason Crane interviews the pianist for Jason’s great podcast The Jazz Session. Kuhn speaks about his (then) new new album, Mostly Coltrane (ECM, 2009), which pays tribute to John Coltrane, with whom Kuhn worked for several weeks in the early 60s. In the interview, Kuhn talks about Coltrane, the Lenox School of Jazz, his composing methods, and the support he received early on from Bill Evans. He also discusses the sacrifices he made in pursuit of his musical vision.

Click here to listen to The Jazz Session #76: Steve Kuhn

—Peter Blasevick


The Odd Jobs Of Dave King

daveKingHere is an interesting interview with drummer Dave King, best known for his work with The Bad Plus. Lara Pellegrinelli of NPR’s A Blog Supreme recently took the interesting angle of asking King about drummers as multi-taskers and different jobs, both musical and non, that he has held. From the interview:

Why don’t you tell me if any special skills you developed from these jobs parlayed themselves into your musical existence?

It’s funny, they’re very similar when you stack them up. I’d work jobs that took very little actual interaction with people so I could be in my own thought process. I spent time doing visualization about music and about what I wanted to do with my life and career. I was doing jazz gigs, trying to be the guy that people called for things, and learning how to do all of that, as well, but I had to have some money coming in during the day. I just didn’t want to do anything that would take any mental space away from my creative mind.

Oh, man, I’m remembering a good one. When I was in Los Angeles, I worked at Kinko’s. It was a goldmine for musicians because you can make flyers and postcards for your gigs. I got really into making these Basquiat-inspired, abstract neo-expressionist flyers that got a lot of attention for my band Happy Apple. And then I was a telemarketer selling bizarre stuff. Telemarketing is hell. I remember telling everyone this blanket would keep them cool in summer and warm in winter. And then there would be a tap on my shoulder because a supervisor had been listening to my conversation.

Click here to read The Odd Jobs Of Dave King

—Peter Blasevick

Lee Konitz on working in the trio format and the importance of a good drummer

Jon Solomon interviewed the great alto man Lee Konitz for the Denver Westword blog last week. Konitz talks about recent gigs, free jazz, Charlie Parker, and more. From the interview:

How important is playing with a good drummer to you?

As with any of the instruments in the rhythm section, it’s vitally important. The drummer, since he’s not using notes so to speak unless he tunes his drums carefully, is probably… Well, I don’t know exactly what I’m trying to say right now. Because of the lack of notes, the rhythm is more important and things like that.

Click here to read Lee Konitz on working in the trio format and the importance of a good drummer

Jazz Police Interview With Geoffrey Keezer

A few cool interviews I found on the JazzPolice website this week. Here’s a quick 2005 talk with the great modern-day pianist Geoffrey Keezer. He talks about recordings and some of the people he was playing with at the time, as well as growing up with the support of his parents:

JP. You grew up in a family where music was a major component of daily life. [Father Ron Keezer headed the jazz band program at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire.] Looking back now, how did that environment inform your development as a young musician, and how does it impact your work today?

GK. I feel so fortunate and blessed to have had the total support of my parents in whatever I wanted to do. Of course if my parents hadn’t been musicians I might have turned out differently. But as a kid, I thought everybody played music – it just seemed so normal to me!

Click here to read Jazz Police Interview With Geoffrey Keezer

Geoffrey Keezer: Making, And Controlling, His New Music

I’m posting interviews from all week. They are one of the great one-stop-shop destination Jazz websites out there, so check them out.

Pianist/composer Geoffrey Keezer has been playing piano since age three and has been on the road since 1989 when he joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers after a year at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Over the years, he’s recorded steadily and played with numerous jazz luminaries including Ray Brown, Diana Krall, Joshua Redman, Christian McBride, Kenny Barron, Chick Corea, Benny Green, and Mulgrew Miller.

In this 2008 interview with R. J. Deluke, Keezer speaks at length about the modern music industry, and also about different bandleaders he’s worked with. Here he discusses his tenure with Ray Brown and some of the challenges about being a sideman:

“Ray Brown was great,” recounts Keezer. “He was a beautiful human being and a very great bandleader. As good as the experience was, it wasn’t exactly the way I wanted to play. I had to adjust. Any time you work as a sideman, typically when you’re hired by a band, you’re kind of like an actor playing a role. They hire you because of your basic skills. They like the way you play and the way you accompany, etc. But you do have to sort of bend a bit to the sound of the band. Which is fine. That’s part of being a professional.

“Ray’s concept was a lot more traditional, a lot more straight-ahead than what I was really wanting to do. To his credit, he never told me told me how to play. He knew that I could give him enough of what he wanted. He would allow me to go off on a tangent once in a while, as long as I gave him some groove and swing and blues, and all those elements that he was so great at and that made his music so special.

Click here to read Geoffrey Keezer: Making, And Controlling, His New Music  

A 2001 DownBeat Profile of Lee Konitz

Another interesting Ted Panken interview. Today is a fascinating 2001 interview with the great Lee Konitz. The legendary alto saxophonist and Cool Jazz pioneer talks about his career and life, including this great bit about seeing Ornette Coleman:

“I remember going with Lennie Tristano and Warne Marsh to hear him at the Five Spot one night, and not really knowing what to make of it. Ornette came up and asked me if I wanted to sit in. I said, ‘What do we play?’ or something like that, and somehow I guess I didn’t sound like I really wanted to sit in, so he didn’t pursue it. Sorry I didn’t. At that time, like a lot of people, I was resenting somehow this fact that he was eliminating everything that I’d spent my years trying to hone. But I gradually got over resenting it. Ornette’s concept is extraordinarily inventive and original, and of course had a great influence on a lot of the music’s development. He tried to explain some of the harmolodic theory on an airplane flight when we were sitting together. I said, ‘Wait til we get down on the ground, please.’ I really said that, because it’s so subjective that I didn’t want to face it up in the air. I never really learned his tunes. I’m too busy playing ‘All the Things You Are.’ By Jerome Kern. That guy must be turning over!”

Click here to read A 2001 DownBeat Profile of Lee Konitz

Interview with Professor Robin D. G. Kelley, 2010

Here is a fascinating 2010 interview from Psychology Today with Robin D. G. Kelley, author of the great biography Thelonious Monk, The Life and Times of an American Original. This is a little different from the musician and producer interviews I usually post, but it is such an interesting look at the legendary pianist and composer, I thought you’d be interested in checking it out. Kelley does a great job of not skirting Monk’s mental issues in the book, and he goes into detail about it here. From the interview:

LS: You’re careful not to romanticize mental illness, to show what his episodes took from his life and work. But could Monk had been Monk without it? Did it contribute to his life and work as well?

RK: This is the critical debate among biographers and historians who write about artists who have bipolar disorder. I come down on the side that it did not enhance or enrich his work or gave him unique vision he would not have had otherwise. I think he still would have been “Monk” and, in fact, may have been more prolific in terms of his compositions. Even his antics (which have often been used to define him), I believe, were crafted or spontaneous manifestations of his wit, not outcomes of the disease. However, I do think the kind of meds he received matter more. Thorazine made his fingers stiff and it was often a struggle for him. When he finally received lithium treatments, evidence suggests it deadened his creative drive (though it might have already diminished) and contributed to his decision to stop playing, though it successfully stabilized him. Most importantly, his approach to playing and composition were products of unceasing study and practice. He had a way of playing and writing that was labored over and I see no evidence that his manic phases contributed.

Click here to read Interview with Professor Robin D. G. Kelley, 2010

Four Orrin Keepnews Interviews

From YouTube’s JazzVideoGuy Bret Primack, here are four chapters from the Concord Music Group video podcast series “Orrin Keepnews, Producer”.

Chapter 1: “Saint Monk” Pianist and composer Thelonious Monk was the patron saint of Riverside Records, the influential Jazz record label Orrin Keepnews co-founded in the early 50s. In the first installment of a twenty chapter video podcast series, Keepnews talks about meeting Monk, signing him, and producing his Riverside debut, “Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington.”

“The Sound of Sonny” is featured in Episode 2 , where the great Jazz producer talks about meeting Sonny Rollins and producing his first Riverside recording, part of the Concord Music Group’s “Keepnews Collection,” which featured Roy Haynes, Sonny Clark and two bassists, Percy Heath and Paul Chambers.

The third chapter of the podcast series is “Mr. Pulled Together – Clark Terry,” the story of the great trumpeter’s Riverside session, “Serenade to a Bus Seat.”

Finally, Chapter 14 features the 1960 Riverside recording by Wes Montgomery, “The Incredible Jazz Guitar,” with Montgomery, Tommy Flanagan, Percy and Tootie Heath.

Check out these great videos!

Lee Konitz: A Q&A by Ethan Iverson

Here is  a nice long 2011 JazzTimes interview with the great alto Lee Konitz discussing his newest release Live at Birdland with Brad Mehldau, Charlie Haden and Paul Motian along with plenty of other topics.

Click here to read Lee Konitz: A Q&A by Ethan Iverson