Writings about Music

Beyond Cool

Having dinner with Lee Konitz at an authentic French place like we were in Paris near his Manhattan apartment on 8 June 2019, he charmed the waitresses, and one of them sang Autumn Leaves for us in French quite beautifully during desert. Then, out of the blue, Lee suggested we go hear some jazz, so we walked to my car, driving through the heart of Times Square on Saturday night with Wagner playing on the mostly jazz radio station. Undeterred, Lee speared a phrase he liked, and proceeded to sing jazz variations on it along with the opera. Actually, I think he improved the music we were listening to! But that’s what he did; he improved all the great jazz standards he played, finding infinite variations truly unmatched in jazz history in terms of not repeating himself. Cool jazz? Konitz had enough soul to build a stairway to the stars. And he’s among those stars at night shining down on us now.

When I was studying with Lee, he gave me a copy of his splendid new album, Satori, with some amusement noting how a colleague had quipped upon receiving his copy: "Satori Night is the Loneliest Night of the Week."

Sammy Cahn wrote the lyrics for the referenced song, "Saturday Night Is the Loneliest Night of the Week," recorded by Frank Sinatra, and a friend recently gave me a personal letter from Cahn that I'm planning to make part of a new essay about the lyricist.

- Michael Robinson, July 2020, Los Angeles


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Michael Robinson is a Los Angeles-based composer and writer (musicologist).