Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Jugendstil II: Fine Improvisations from Konitz, Cheek, Leibovici

The second album by the improvisational chamber trio Jugendstil (Jugendstil II) (ESP 4059) has the magic that can only come out of the musical alignment of three inspired players. . . resulting in exceptional group interactions and individual presence, all honed to a brittle, fragile, yet exceptionally sharp surface. An improv syzygy. . .

It's a classic lineup for intimate chamber improv: the alto of the great Lee Konitz, who is sounding as good as ever, the tenor of Chris Cheek, a perfect foil for the bittersweet Konitz tone, and a solid anchor from bassist Leibovici. The group is supplemented here and there by harp, mallets, flutes, celesta and clarinet. Their subtle addition adds atmospheric, impressionistic ambiance.

But it is the focus on the three players in intimate interaction that is primary. The two horns engage in an extraordinary dialog that you expect from Lee Konitz but sometimes do not get from his accomplices. Cheek is the man to listen, respond and speak plainly but eloquently as called for. The same applies to Leibovici, but for the most part in a somewhat secondary role.

It all works smashingly well. This is a major addition to the Konitz legacy to my mind. But also to those of Chris Cheek and Stephane Leibovici as well. Alternately languidly, then crisply poignant. But most definitely poignant.

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