Recent Listening: Kamuca and Konitz
Richie Kamuca & Lee Konitz, Live at Donte's 1974 (Cellar Door)
It's a hoot to hear the saxophonists channel their hero Lester Young in this recently discovered session recorded at the lamented Los Angeles club. "Lester Leaps In" begins and ends as a unison duet, complete with stop-time breaks, reproducing Young's 1939 solo on the master take of the piece with Count Basie's Kansas City Seven. In their own solos, Kamuca and Konitz leave no doubt about where they came from. Kamuca, the tenor player, is clearest in his fealty to Young. Konitz, on alto, is more abstract in his Prezcience, but it has always been a major element in his work. The other tunes are standards in the gig books of musicians of Kamuca's (1930-1977) and Konitz's (1927- ) generation—"Just Friends," "Star Eyes," "All The Things You Are" and Bobby Troup's "Baby, Baby All The Time." Solos are long and exploratory; the shortest track is 7:41. The set has the exhilaration, rough edges, chance-taking and surprises that make for satisfying live performance.
Support for the two Ks is by the solid L.A. rhythm section of pianist Dolo Coker, bassist Leroy Vinnegar and drummer Jake Hanna, all of whom solo to great effect. Vinnegar goes beyond his customary walking bass for a couple of bowed solos and a bit of unexpected wildness in his "Lester Leaps In" solo, to the evident amusement of his colleagues and the audience. Coker, an under-recognized high achiever among Bud Powell admirers, has impressive moments throughout. Hanna cooks along, fueling the swing. Toward the end of the last track, "Lester," he finally takes a solo. What he saved up is worth the wait. The sound of this session, exhumed from reel-to-reel tapes, won't turn Rudy Van Gelder green with envy, but it's perfectly acceptable; you can plainly hear what everyone is doing. Unearthing and releasing it is a feather in the cap of Cellar Door's Bill Reed. On the CD box, it says, "Limited Edition." The 300 copies probably won't last long because there is nothing limited about the music.