Lee Konitz’s devotion to improvisation

·1-min read
<span>Photograph: Juan Herrero/EPA</span>
Photograph: Juan Herrero/EPA

John Fordham’s obituary of Lee Konitz (16 April) describes his commitment to spontaneous improvisation. In my conversations with Lee while producing his biography, he stressed that “my way of preparation [is] to not be prepared”. And, he added, “that takes a lot of preparation”. Paradoxically, for him, spontaneous improvisation implied hours of practice. Lee was uninterested in what he called “showboating” – the demands of the entertainment industry proved hard to reconcile with dedication to the improviser’s art. Like many artistic geniuses, Lee was relentlessly self-critical and not always comfortable company, but he was a warm, gentle and generous human being. His death removes almost the last link to the heroic era of modern jazz, and the loss to music is immeasurable.
Andy Hamilton

• In these times of isolation for many, it was nice to see John Fordham emphasising the collaborative nature of artistic creation. Both Lee Konitz and Gerry Mulligan were crucial elements in shaping Birth of the Cool. So often, as in the 2019 documentary on Miles Davis, the breakthrough is attributed to a single genius, when the truth is that a body of like or contrary minds have made a work live.
Gavin Selerie

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