Writings about Music

He Was A Music Titan: Lee Konitz

Lee Konitz

 

He was a music titan, as gifted as J.S. Bach or Charlie Parker. Very tough and kind at once with an ingenious sense of humor. Among myriad accomplishments, recorded what I felt was the greatest jazz ballad recording.

 

A Momentous 'Round Midnight

 

Spoke to him a few months ago on the phone while driving on a sunny Sunday over the Hollywood Hills. His conversation was filled with joy and positivity, as brilliant as ever his observations, including discussing the jazz standard, "Without A Song." Lee heard god in his own way, and allowed us to listen in, marveling at his divine creations.

 

The Miracle of Improvising: Lee Konitz Interview. Gary Foster said this was the finest jazz interview he ever read, making it required reading for all his students.

 

I tried to phone him at the hospital yesterday, but he wasn't taking calls. Tonight, I went to sleep early, waking after some hours, feeling something was wrong. Now, hearing the sad news he left the earth, well, his music left the earth all the time. This time it took him with it.

 

Michael Robinson and Lee Konitz in Lee's Manhattan apartment at his 92nd Birthday Party, October 13, 2019

 

Love for a great teacher and a rare friend.

He's so much a part of me, now feels like I'm floating in an Ocean of Konitz. The last thing Lee said to me on the phone was, "Bye-Bye," like a parent to a child, very warm and moving like his music.

 

A photo I took of Lee Konitz outside the Village Vanguard in Manhattan last June. The young women pictured were very excited by his presence.

 

Above the World: Manhattan in June with Lee is about the great time we had hanging out last June, including visiting the Village Vanguard. In the photo above, Lee is wearing my hat. He had forgotten his, and I happened to have one in the backseat of my car. Lee marveled at how it looked exactly like his own hat.

Little known, he was an amazing swimmer!

Lee loved jazz standards, feeling a special oneness with them partly due to a shared Jewish American heritage with many of the composers and lyricists.

Michael Robinson, overdue for a haircut, managing a smile during a day of mourning for his friend and teacher, Lee Konitz, who happened to be a living jazz legend, thinking of what an incredible life Lee had!

 

On this sad night, here are some of the lyrics by Billy Rose to the song Lee and I spoke about mentioned above, with music by Vincent Youmans.

"Without a song the day would never end
Without a song the road would never bend
When things go wrong a man ain't got a friend
Without a song"

"I'll-a never know what makes that rain to fall
I'll never know what makes the grass so tall
I only know there ain't no love at all
Without a song"

- Michael Robinson, April 2020, Los Angeles

 

© 2020 Michael Robinson All rights reserved

 

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