This unusual two-CD set not only reissues the original LP of the same name but three other rare Verve LP's from the 1950's. Altoist Lee Konitz (on "An Image") is showcased during a set of adventurous Bill Russo arrangements for an orchestra and strings in 1958, pops up on half of Ralph Burns' underrated 1951 classic Free Forms (the most enjoyable of the four sets) and meets up with baritonist Jimmy Giuffre, whose arrangements for five saxes (including the great tenor Warne Marsh) and a trio led by pianist Bill Evans are sometimes equally influenced by classical music and bop.
This excellent set gives one a definitive look at altoist Lee Konitz at a period of time when he was breaking away from being a sideman and a student of Lennie Tristano and asserting himself as a leader. With pianist Ronnie Ball, bassist Percy Heath, and drummer Alan Levitt, Konitz explores a variety of his favorite chord changes, some of which were disguised by newer melodies such as "Hi Beck," "Subconscious Lee," and "Sound Lee." Among the other high points of this well-recorded set are "Foolin' Myself" and a lengthy exploration of "If I Had You."
This LP comprises one of altoist Lee Konitz's greatest sessions. In 1967 he recorded a series of very diverse duets, all of which succeed on their own terms. Konitz is matched with valve trombonist Marshall Brown on a delightful version of "Struttin' with Some Barbecue" and matches wits with the tenor of Joe Henderson on "You Don't Know What Love Is." He plays "Checkerboard" with pianist Dick Katz, "Erb" with guitarist Jim Hall, "Tickle Toe" with the tenor of Richie Kamuca (Konitz switches to tenor on that cut), and an adventurous and fairly free "Duplexity" with violinist Ray Nance. Konitz also has three different duets in five versions of "Alone Together" and, on "Alphanumeric," welcomes practically everyone back for a final blowout. The music ranges from Dixieland to bop and free, and is consistently fascinating.
Lee Konitz has been a constant explorer throughout most of his career, never satisfied with a standard approach or falling into a rut with a particular instrumentation. This 1974 duo session with bassist Red Mitchell, which focuses exclusively on the works of Cole Porter, is one great example. With an inventive accompanist like Mitchell spurring him on, the alto saxophonist is able to work magical variations of the familiar Porter works, while Konitz retains his remarkable dry signature tone.