The alto saxophonist Lee Konitz was an innovative figure in jazz for more than 70 years and was the last surviving member of the groundbreaking Birth of the Cool group whose late-1940s recordings influenced a generation of musicians.
Konitz, who has died aged 92 after contracting coronavirus, came of musical age during the bebop movement, which revolutionised jazz in the 1940s with its fast-paced rhythmic drive and harmonic innovations, pioneered by the trailblazing saxophonist Charlie Parker.
At first Konitz mastered Parker’s restless, high-speed cascades of sound – then deliberately went in a different musical direction. Guided by his studies with Lennie Tristano, a blind pianist who sought to blend elements of classical music with jazz, Konitz developed a style in which his improvised solos seemed to float like clouds, structured not as bursts of sound but as well-wrought musical sculptures, built over shifting harmonies.
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