Konitz hospitalized before Regattabar gig

(From left to right) Florian Weber, Lee Konitz, Jeff Renson, Ziv Ravitz

Lee Konitz is down but not out. The 81-year-old jazz icon, scheduled to play a 7:30 set at the Regattabar last night with his young backing trio, Minsarah, was taken to Mt. Auburn Hospital after soundcheck complaining of chest pains. This morning, the hospital listed his condition as "stable," but no other details were offered.

At the club, Minsarah turned the near-tragedy into triumph. At 7:45, an announcement was made over the club PA apologizing for the delay of the show and informing the audience that Konitz had been taken to a nearby hospital but was believed to be okay. Refunds were offered, and some audience members left. About 20 minutes later, Minsarah entered, and drummer Ziv Ravitz placed Konitz's black saxophone case upright at center stage. From behind his kit, Ravitz said that the band were nervous because Konitz's condition was still unknown, but they were playing because that's what Konitz wanted. "Lee always pushes us to play no matter what the situation is." The audience burst into applause and pianist Florian Weber played chords that eventually became the melody to "Alone Together," with Ravitz and bassist Jeff Denson joining in. After the show, Ravitz said that Konitz had been complaining of chest pains in the morning, but had brushed them off. But as the day went on, the pain intensified, and after soundcheck Weber accompanied Konitz to the hospital in a cab.

It's hard to say what ultimate effect the condition of their friend, mentor, and bandmate had on the band's performance. They had recorded one homonymous album on the German Enja label when they met Konitz in Germany a couple of years ago at a recording session, played a couple of gigs with him, and then became the first working band he has had in some time. The quartet released Deep Lee on Enja last year. Konitz, an influential alto-sax god for 60 years, is mostly known to play festivals and one-offs with special all-star gatherings, or with pick-up bands.

However nervous they were, Minsarah delivered a galvanizing performance. They traded on the kind of equal three-way interplay that has become a jazz-piano-trio hallmark since Bill Evans. But as they moved through a 70-minute set of originals, standards, and Konitz tunes based on standards, they displayed ensemble balance and their own kind of intensity. Weber would assay a few widely-spaced impressionistic chords, begin to peck out a melody, and his partners would enter, Dorian moving in and out of time, Ravitz driving the beat with tightly coiled patterns that were a mix of stuttering kick-drum thump, precise cymbal splashes and ride figures, and beautifully tuned, trebly snaps on the drum heads. On a couple of occasions, Weber drove his own rhythms with busy repeating patterns in the upper register while plonking slower melodies in the bass. The set also included Wayne Shorter's "E.S.P.," Konitz's "Kary's Trance" (based on "Play Freddie Play") and "Subconscious Lee" (based on "What Is This Thing Called Love"), and the band's own "Nuage" (not the similarly titled Django Reinhardt tune) and ballad "If I Only Had an Answer." Konitz survives, Minsarah triumphs. It could have been much worse.

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