Lee Konitz 2

I was to play with Lee Konitz a second time, this time in 1987 when I was teaching in Leicester. Conrad Cork, the saxophonist I played with in Leicester, gives his account of this in Andy Hamilton’s book (Lee Konitz: Conversations on the Improviser’s Art). In effect Lee had been invited by Derek Bailey to play as part of his Company Week in 1987 and, as Lee had a free night, Derek contacted me to see if I could fix something in Leicester. Lee would have expected a standard rhythm section of course, much as we had been in 1966, but while I did work with a trio, called Nardis (after the Miles Davis tune), it consisted of saxophone, bass and drums… But Lee agreed and came up to Leicester, where he did a masterclass for my students and then we played at a small venue in the middle of town called The Cooler. We spent hardly any time rehearsing, just agreeing on some songs. We played the first piece, Stella by Starlight, with just bass and drums (and he kept trying to get John Runcie, the drummer to play more softly, or to use brushes). Lee then asked Conrad, on alto sax,  to join for the next song Over the Rainbow, while he switched to soprano and it was quite lovely. The gig got better and better and was a huge success. The place was packed – even the new principal of the polytechnic (later vice chancellor of the university) was there – and for the first time, probably, The Cooler made a profit, helped maybe by the fact that the trio was not paid anything…

Conrad refers in his account to “the tape we made” and I only recently acquired this recording. Following Conrad’s death at the end of April, his wife Alison sent me a recording of the entire performance and I include some of this in this audio journal. The first piece did not include Conrad. Lee announces at the beginning of the gig that he is “choreographing” the programme by starting the first piece unaccompanied and, at a point that we did not fix – it was more or less down to me – the bass would join in to make a duo, and eventually John Runcie on drums completed the trio. For the other pieces we played as a quartet. The full programme was:

Part One

Stella by Starlight

Over the Rainbow

All the things you are

On Green Dolphin Street

Part Two

Lover Man



What is this thing called love

Lee Konitz, alto and soprano sax; Conrad Cork, alto sax; Gavin Bryars, bass; John Runcie, drums

Gavin Bryars