Joe Lovano and Lee Konitz make their sounds bigger without losing their cool

As a player, Talmor digs Konitz the most; his tenor could be mistaken for an alto when he spirals up to a high register. But aside from a slight resemblance to George Russell in its harmonic stacking and barreling momentum, his ensemble writing is strikingly original. New Nonet was recorded over five nights at the Jazz Standard last summer, and given the complexity of the charts, rough spots are inevitable. But when everything comes together—as with the brass storm clouds that precede Konitz's duet with Matt Wilson's thundering drums on "Ominous"—it's as if Talmor and the band are reading Konitz's thoughts.

Joe Lovano, perhaps toting around his precious Autochrome
photo: Jimmy Katz
Joe Lovano, perhaps toting around his precious Autochrome


Joe Lovano Ensemble
Streams of Expression
Blue Note

Lee Konitz
New Nonet

Lee Konitz–Ohad Talmor String Project

On Invention's "Chunks" and "Qu'est-Ce Que C'est"—the latter based on Monk (or maybe Bartók)—Talmor, in lieu of asking the strings to make pretty, uses them percussively, and Konitz responds to their itchy staccato with such crying abandon you wonder if he's been listening to Ornette (or maybe Ornette listened to him early on?). A forgotten spawn of Birth of the Cool was Third Stream, a '60s movement spearheaded by Schuller and John Lewis that tried to fuse jazz improvisation and classical composition. A problem it encountered was the inability of classically trained players to phrase idiomatically. Inventions's delightful surprise ending, a buoyant rendition of "Struttin' With Some Barbecue," with the strings functioning as a rhythm section less cornball than Armstrong's as Konitz and Talmor engage each other contrapuntally, demonstrates how some things have changed for the better. Praise to Konitz for two of the most ambitious projects of his career at an age when he could get by with a victory lap.

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