While the trio Konitz assembled on Another Shade of Blue sticks to a very narrow span of material, that’s no barrier to the excellence displayed on this recording. Konitz’ saxophone melds perfectly with Charlie Haden’s bass and Brad Mehldau’s piano. Rather spare arrangements manage to sound full-blooded and perfectly balanced. The production is crisp, the live ambience maintained, and the pace is even.
That no new ground is broken on this recording does nothing to lessen one’s enjoyment; rather, getting there is more than half the fun on this recording. The piano finds its own voice early on, with some odd time signatures and key shifts. This could sound a little too cute if it weren’t executed with a robust and classical tip of the hat to Duke Ellington’s conservatory style of mixing blues and European harmony. The elegant piano work is often immediately followed by introspective fingering on Konitz’ part
A collection of old standards presents musicians with three choices: make the chestnuts theirs with some trademark stylings; hew to the old and trusted roads; or take some wild and wacky choices. While jazz has never been about taking the easiest path, Konitz and company’s decision to put their own spin on numbers like “What’s New” and “Body and Soul” serve the ensemble and audience well. Indeed, if I were to lament anything, it would be the submersion of Haden’s bass—rarely does he get an opportunity to stand out and shine. That said, no player lets down the other two on the entire recording. Haden’s obscurity serves as the foundation for the piano and sax to act as foils for each other.
// Notes from the Road
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