Lee Konitz – Bristol jazz festival, The Lantern

Sunday 18th March

The third gig of the day, my fifth overall this weekend. I joke sometimes about setting up a camp bed in a cupboard of Colston Hall as I am there so often. Well, today, I really may as well have moved in as all 3 gigs were in the same venue, my beloved Lantern.

I bought this ticket months ago, decision partly motivated by Lee’s advancing years. You take chances to see the old guard while you can.

Lee Konitz is 90. 90. And still playing gigs. Well. He was charming, warm and funny, if a little forgetful. He can still play. His sax oozed with cool, honey like sounds dripping out into my ears. It may be somewhat less improvised than in his heyday and the band may be helping hold him up more than they would have before, but it added a poignancy and gentleness that was very touching. In my limited experience of seeing jazz quartets, they have been livelier and more aggressive in the way instruments duel and compete for attention. This quartet felt more like a team, all working together to tell stories in melody. To make music together and to ensure Lee still shone. That lent a very lovely vibe to the evening and made it very easy to connect to the music. I closed my eyes and drifted into colours and shapes (purple, blue and oatmeal strands of sting in waving and  never ending loops if you are interested). It was late night, cool, jazz for hip cats. This was the most mixed age crowd I’d seen all weekend, there were proper youngsters in front of me, real old folks, as well as middle aged bods like me. I’ve got it, it felt like the band were a family, respecting Grandpa/Uncle Lee and protecting his legacy. Perhaps that is why I felt so comforted by it.

It was a wonderful way to end my first jazz festival, with warmth and affection. A huge well done to the organisers, volunteers and staff who put Bristol jazz festival together. I’ll be back next year for more.


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