Interview with Lee Konitz and Ohad Talmor about Lee Konitz-Ohad Talmor Big Band: Portology (featuring the Orquestra Jazz de Matosinhos) (OmniTone 15217)
by executive co-producer Frank Tafuri

[Click here to watch humorous video "shorts" from interview.]

Lee Konitz and Ohad Talmor talk to Executive Co-producer Frank Tafuri

Tafuri: So, this is quite a collaboration for the both of you that's been going on for a number of years.  How did you both meet initially and begin working together?

Konitz: I think we have two different viewpoints.

Talmor: There's the true version, and there's the humiliating version. I'm gonna give you the true version.

Konitz: There's three versions of the truth: my version, his version, and the truth.

[Tafuri laughs.]

Konitz: I'm gonna tell you the truth first. 

Talmor: [Under his breath] Isn't that nice?

Konitz: [To Talmor] But I told you about your foot before the concert?  (Ah, excuse me.  We're just talking it over.)

Talmor: It's the first thing you me at the end of the workshop.

Konitz: But that's when we met first, as I remember it.  But who cares, ultimately?

Talmor: [Quietly] Well, he does.

Tafuri: I think when two generations get together and work on an extensive set of projects that have culminated in a big band, it might be interesting to people.

Konitz: Well, as I recall it, I did a workshop in Geneva — where Ohad was living at the time — and I commented that his foot was out-of-synch with his fingers when he was playing.  And someone recently commented to me that my foot was out-of-synch with my fingers [Talmor chuckles], and I said, "Goddamn!  You just never learn."

[Konitz chuckles.]

Konitz: [To Talmor] Your version?

Talmor: Naw, we met earlier than that.  There was this Swiss composers who hired Lee to do a big band record that I was involved in.

Konitz: Ah-hah!

Talmor: (The truth comes out.)  But then it's true: we befriended each other.  I was living in Geneva at the time, involved organizing things for this school/jazz club.  Then I brought Lee back, first by himself, then with Kenny Werner, and then some other stuff.  The thing he mentioned is this workshop he gave in Geneva where he asked me to play a tune, which was "Stella by Starlight," and it's true that my foot was all over the place. 

[Konitz and Tafuri chuckle.]

Talmor: But he didn't say, "You can't tap your foot."  He said, "You can't play the song ... until you know it."

Tafuri: Ah.

Konitz: What?!  Aw, you're talking about knowing the melody before you take off on it.

Talmor: No, I was also...

Tafuri: Knowing the lyrics, maybe?

Konitz: I told him about that, but that wasn't essential.  If I hear someone starting to improvise after fumbling the melody, I suggest they learn the melody first.  That's logical, right?

Talmor: And then the foot.

Tafuri: So, how does it go from that to these three big projects you have now?

Talmor: It's about staying just as curious as the first day and giving it his best and giving me a chance — immediately.  It's just gobbling up the music and being interested.

Konitz:  It's fascinating to me.  I'm not an orchestrator, so I'm fascinated by ability to dress up a song and make it much more interesting. 

Tafuri: And where did the material predominantly come from?

Talmor: When?  Of these projects?

Tafuri: Sure.  Of these projects.

Konitz: These projects are the String Quartet, the Nonet + 1, and the Big Band.  The music for most all of them are my fragments or extended themes that Ohad has orchestrated ... and a few of his pieces, too. 

Tafuri: But most of the material is new material?

Konitz: All of it — except for "Sound Lee" and "I'll Remember You" — but "I'll Remember You" is an arrangement that includes the solo I played on Elvin Jones' trio record.  Ohad wrote out my melody and made an arrangement on it, and then I was supposed to play it [gives a big, forced smile].

[Talmor and Tafuri chuckle.]

Talmor: He asked me to "correct it."  He said, "Why don't we make it better?  Why don't to change those notes?"

Konitz: If there were some notes that I didn't like, then we changed them, thinking 'Why not take advantage of this?'  Now, you gotta do it with the wrong notes.

[Talmor and Konitz chuckle.]

Talmor: A lot of people would pay a lot of money to play wrong notes like that!  I told him that...

Konitz: Well, I appreciate that, but wrong is wrong. 

Tafuri: Maybe he's playing the right wrong notes.

[Konitz laughs.]

Konitz: Thank you.  I appreciate that

Tafuri: But this collaboration was done over a period of time, right?  So, Lee, how did you get the music to Ohad ... or how did you receive it, Ohad?

Talmor: Well, Lee moved to Europe and was kind of based out of Germany, and I had moved to New York a few years earlier than that, but we always kept in touch, and he faxed me these things.  So, I have stack of faxes [demonstrates the size of the stack size by holding his hands in front of him about 40 cm apart].  I mean, it's great; I take great care of them.

Konitz: That's a little big exaggerated.  You don't have no stack like that.  You have a stack like this [holds out his thumb and index finger about 2-3 cm apart] maybe.

Talmor: That's like a dictionary size, basically.  I have 150 to 180 pieces so far, and I organize and pick from them.  There's all this stuff, and he faxes me non-stop.

Konitz: I do this anyway but, with his encouragement, I did it a little more determinately.  They're things I like to do spontaneously, without thinking about publishing them or making a career out of playing them.  I still play "All the Things You Are" on all my gigs.  So, I really appreciate all the encouragement.  [To Tafuri] I just told him that I have a whole bunch of fragments waiting at home to drop in the fax machine.  The next project is going to be with symphony [orchestra].

Tafuri: With so many things, how did you pick music to work on?

Talmor: It's a combination.  Lee expressed the desire to work on special colors, like blues, so he faxed over 485 blueses ... or Rhythm changes.  Or we needed to do a ballad, so some of them are immediately-conceived, as such, as ballads.  Incidentally, the ballads that Lee sends me, the slower paced tunes, usually come out finished; there's hardly anything to do to them.  The faster moving lines, usually they're more fragmented.

Konitz: Yeah.  Yeh-yeh.

Talmor: And it's like that.  There's so much stuff, there's so much material and its surprisingly varied; it's not this linear, monotonous material.  It's very, very diverse, so there's a whole lot to look from. 

Konitz: I write just from hearing something without an instrument.  When I play my horn, I play a phrase that I like, and I jot it down and go from there with the instrument, basically, or sitting at the piano and improvising and coming up with something.  So, I have motivations, so to speak.

Tafuri: How do these fragments come to you?

Konitz: Revelation and, as I told someone last night, I was listening to woodwind section little rehearsal (of the OJM) and I thought, 'I've never heard that before!' I've listened to Ohad's arrangements quite a few times, but there's always something new to hear ... and, especially, listening to some of my themes.  I even asked him about a tune once, over the phone — I'd made some corrections on the sheet — and he said, "We recorded that one already!" "Damn!"

[All three laugh.]

Tafuri: How did you approach arranging his music?  After all, here's — and I don't want to embarrass you, Lee — a "giant of jazz" who's know predominantly for his small combo/ensemble recordings and for duos and trios and quartets, mostly.  How do you take that familiarity and expand it into these big band charts?

Talmor: With a whole lot of convincing and a whole lot of complaining from "the other side."

[Konitz and Talmor laugh.]

Konitz: What do you mean?

Talmor: No, it's a practice that evolved over time.  I did take great care to try to customize the arrangements to what Lee wants.  I overburdened him at the beginning with just writing a bunch of material that would be too much [for him] to deal with.  And, as I started to understand how he functions as an improviser and as a musician in general, I'm able to address his creative process more specifically.  It's difficult, because it's a large ensemble.  There are a lot of things that are involved with the writing, so it's never going to be a completely loose situation for Lee; he's never going to be able to let go of the page completely.  In the arrangements, I try to give Lee the liberty to be "away from the page"  and to keep what's going on behind him less intrusive.  One of the processes I use is mostly contrapuntal; I rarely use chordal writing, I don't hear things like that.  So, since Lee is such as contrapuntalist, it [the arrangements] seem[s] to be connecting.  There are all these lines that happen all the time, and I think that's more in keeping with Lee's playing. 

Konitz: The situation is very complicated for me.  You know, you're playing "by eye" (so to speak) when you have to look at the sheet [of music], trying to do it correctly.  As soon as I close my eyes and start to play, I don't know where I am on the sheet.  So, I'm looking to him [Ohad] to give me a cue.  But the most important thing — and this starts with our "obligation" or desire to play with whomever we're playing with — is to listen to them and react and, hopefully, respond.  In this situation, it can be mutual, in terms of the intensity of how they play it.  But, if I'm not listening to the orchestra and am just concerned with making noise (like I was at the rehearsal yesterday — I was just trying to do my function), I don't feel nothin', if you'll excuse the English.  I didn't feel anything.  And I promised to wait, at least, until I hear something until I begin to play.  I referred to myself (kind of half-jokingly) as "a faker," and that's what I was doing yesterday by not listening in responding to all this beautiful stimuli that Ohad's presented.

Talmor: It's very important what Lee's saying.  I don't want to "rub it in" or anything, but this points out — in Lee's own words — just how high the bar is placed when he improvises.  Lee is one of a rare breed of true improvisers, and that's what sets him apart from the vast majority of what's going on in the jazz world today .  He truly improvises; he truly "opens it up" and dances a tightrope number.  He's never going to take a shortcut — never — and, when you do that, sometimes you fall on your face.  But, in Lee's case, it's not that often.  Magic is achieved a whole lot of times, and how many times do you have that situation?  With Lee, it's an everyday lesson.

Konitz: When I talk to kids, I point out that I have a little more assurance from having done this for a long time, so that they can have that too, if they can hang in there long enough.

Tafuri: I wanted to talk a little more about the arrangements because, Ohad, you were talking about how you tried to write things contrapuntally rather than chordally, because that was in keeping with Lee's playing, and so it sounds like you thought a lot about Lee's interaction with the band and with the music.  But did you give any thought to how audiences — especially audiences who were listening to Lee 20 or 30 or however-many-years-ago — might react to the "reworking" of his music?  Is that, at all, in your thought process?

Konitz: It's secondary.

Talmor: Yeah, not really.  I mean, it's been very interesting to me to hear people who've been around way before me, who grew up listening to Lee (you know, "old-timers"), who listen to Lee's playing in these more sophisticated contexts, and it's always not a revelation, but a "Wow!" There's always a "wow factor" comment.

Tafuri: The reason I asked is because it was interesting when we were making the New Nonet recording live.  There were a lot of people coming out to see Lee play who, under normal circumstances, might not really like the modern arrangements.  But within the context of keeping true to the music and spotlighting Lee a arrangements that were very true to his improvisation concept, the positive reaction was amazing! 

Talmor: Yes, because you were witnessing true music making, in the moment, and it doesn't matter what form it takes.  I'm sure if you went to see a great tabla player — and you don't understand anything about that musical vocabulary, or you go to see a great sitar player or koto player or whatever.  When they bring the art form to that level and you witness that live — because it's another thing to see it on TV or whatever — but to see the actual molding of the musical shapes into a very substantial thing that one can relate to, that makes a world of difference.

Konitz: That's why what so-called "free" music and to hear what "Butch" Morris or Karl Berger before him does, you hear a lot of density and maybe it adds up to be not a great piece of music, but it is spontaneous, and that has an infectious pull.

Tafuri: May we talk a little bit about some of the tunes on the big band recording?  There's one tune that jumps right out, called "June '05."

Konitz: Well, I put dates on the little pieces I write, and that was done on that date.  I started the piece with three 5/8 phrases [sings phrases] or something with that kind of feeling, which Ohad changed right away.  

Talmor: Ha!

Konitz: It was too complicated.  So, he made it groups of fours. 

[Konitz and Talmor chuckle.]

Konitz: Anyway, that was the first part of that series of phrases, and then he took over.

Talmor: "June '05" was the most difficult piece for me to work on, because it has a chameleon personality.  It had these over-the-barline figures, these groups of 5s and 7s.  It was very nice, but it's not a symmetrical way of writing.  And if I had, with all due respect, gone that way, it would have been too complex, and it would have defeated the purpose of writing it for Lee ... and I really didn't hear it like that either.  But that was the piece that gave me the most work to come up with something.  I think it's a piece that works very well, but I think it's the piece that's the least "united."  It goes from one place to another, and it journeys through different styles.  And the only real thread, besides Lee, is in the melodic fragments, which I laid a certain way stylistically: straight 8ths; really swinging, Thad Jones-Mel Lewisy style; Salsa; "open" piano solo, free.  It just jumps here, and it's just these groups of five 8th notes and seven 8th that I use as a bridge between all this material. 

Tafuri: And it was those fragments that stimulated you into thinking about these different styles?

Talmor: Yeah, because it was a very challenging piece.  I remember he faxed it to me; I think I have five versions that you [Lee] faxed me that have been better. 

Konitz: Yeah.

Talmor: I wrote the date "June '05," then "June 15th," then "July 2nd."  At one point, I lost track, so I had to concentrate on just one version. 

Konitz: I certainly encouraged Ohad to change anything he felt [needed changing].  I usually wrote — sometimes I didn't even put harmonies — just so he could get something then, the next day I looked in the [fax] machine and added something here, subtracted something there, et cetera.  So, that was a work-in-process.

Tafuri: It's interesting hearing you both talk about linear writing and contrapuntal writing and writing tunes without chords, because there's also a tune on here called "Ornetty," because that's what Ornette's music was like: linear, without chords, sometimes contrapuntal.

Konitz: That was a more "larger interval" kind of thing, though I don't think of Ornette as using larger intervals — maybe Eric Dolphy.

Talmor: Hmm. 

Konitz: But the piece reminded Ohad of Ornette, somehow.

Talmor: It has this really crisp melody that's diatonic and yet moves abruptly from one place to the other ... and is very swingin'!  You called it "Ornetty" on the fax you sent.

Konitz: Oh, yeah.

Talmor: I mean, the shape [of the piece] is a very unique shape.  There's so much food in it from which one can extrapolate.  That's the thing: sometimes Lee doesn't realize (to some extent) how rich his stuff is.

Konitz: The problem is for me, with that kind of a texture and that kind of intensity in the theme, you're supposed to follow it up [with equal or greater intensity].  That was the problem in the early days playing the Tristano, kind-of-eighth-notey lines: before the first chorus was over, the intensity was way up here [raises his hand above his head], and then you took over and were supposed to raise it higher.  When you play a standard melody, you can start down here [indicates waist-level with his hand] and build up.  I can't follow up that theme too much. 

Tafuri: I never thought about that while listening to all those Tristano recordings — after all you, you worked with him.  After you're done playing the head, where do you go then?

Konitz: Really.

Tafuri: I mean, where do you go from there?  That's something else.

Konitz: Well, that started with bebop, basically, when the lines became more intricate. 

Tafuri: There's another "date" tune on the CD; there's a tune called "September 11th."


Konitz: Hmm.

Talmor: Lee just sent it to me on September 11th.

[Konitz chuckles.]

Talmor: But it was a beautiful melody.  I mean, it's a gorgeous, gorgeous thing.  In that particular piece, he didn't have chords, I think.  It was just the melody without the chords or just a few chords here and there.  And then we embedded its arrangement between two "Ornettys" as a contrasting element.  Of course, now it's going to create an historical question mark of 'September 11th — Lee Konitz has been very influenced by those events.'

Tafuri: It'll be interesting —

Talmor: — to see what they say.

Tafuri: It'll be interesting to see what they read into the title because, after all, that's what it amounts to anyway: how the listener hears the music or, at least, how they interpret the music.

Konitz: That reminds me...  I was in Germany when I saw a television clip, after hearing an announcement on German radio, and I was supposed to come [to New York] the next month to play three nights with Paul Motian in a duo at the Shapiro Center at Lincoln Center.  And I said, "Gee, why would I do that?  When people are suffering like that, they don't want to hear two guys making up some stuff." And I went, because I wanted to do it and, after playing for an hour, I thought, 'Gee, for one hour, people don't have to think about that tragedy.' So, it felt very functional, somehow.  Just a thought there, about September 11th...

Tafuri: The contributions of artists in that time — especially in the healing process — were very important. 

On the previous recording, the New Nonet recording, you have the blues.  Now, on this one, on the Big Band recording, you have the Rhythm changes. 

Konitz: With the symphony, we're going to do some klezmer, I think.

[Talmor, then Konitz laughs.]

Talmor: I'd pay to see that.

Konitz: [Laughing.]  No way!

[The two laugh again in succession.]

Tafuri: So, it was your intent to do a 'Rhythm suite,' or did it just come out of the creative process?

Talmor: No, that was the intent.  I think Lee came up with the idea of doing a blues suite; he had a bunch of blues lines.

Konitz: Yeah, as a little exercise, I was writing blues in all keys.  So, it seemed like a good idea to orchestrate them.

Talmor: So, we just came up with the 'Rhythm changes suite' — a bunch of different keys, a bunch of different meters.

Tafuri: But it was the same idea, in that you wrote new tunes with the idea of a suite in mind. 

Konitz: Well, I was hoping they could be used. 

Tafuri: And, of course, we have "All the Things You Are" —

Konitz: I like that tune!

Tafuri: I love it, too.  But we have a permutations of "All the Things You Are" on your recordings.  And on this one we have "Too Marvelous for Words" in the form of "Sound Lee."  That's a tune you recorded some time ago.

Konitz: I recorded that in —

Talmor: 1891 —

Konitz: 1849. 

Talmor: Ah, '49. 

[Konitz chuckles.] 

Tafuri: So, that was one tune were you [Ohad] weren't inventing something new or making something new out of it.  This is something people have in their ears from recordings.

Konitz: Three people ... that I know of.

[Talmor laughs.]

Konitz: And they can't even remember it.  [Laughs.]

Talmor: You know, the whole repertoire of the Big Band project has an intent to go from the earlier composing side of Lee (including "Sound Lee," which was one of the earlier pieces he wrote) and exploring all the different aspects — compositionally and in different settings for improvisation.  A very straight-ahead — if you can call it "straight-ahead" [chuckles] — arrangement of "Sound Lee" —

Konitz: It's like straight-ahead —

Talmor: Going to the very free moments of "Ornetty," going to a more "European" sound of "Relative Major," of exploring various passages more like a journey through time of all the things Lee's been able to extrapolate.

Tafuri: Did you feel like you had more of an opportunity to explore with the big band with different timbres and colors and so on?

Talmor: Exactly. 

Tafuri: [To Konitz] You talked about what it's like having to play your notes and play your parts, but how does it feel playing within a big band setting?

Konitz: I love the situation.  You know, I played with the Stan Kenton Orchestra for a year-and-a-half.  Every night, we played the [same] music.  So, you got to know it, and you got to compare an inspired performance with a not-so-inspired performance.  This is still the getting-to-know-it process.  So, it feels — whew ! — a little bit, well, less-than-fully satisfying sometimes, knowing that I get lost and things like that.  I like to close my eyes and listen, and I can't quite do that.  But when it finally gets under the pressure of the performance, usually something works for me that makes it more real.

Tafuri: Both of you talked earlier, indirectly, about what each of you gets out of working with each other.  But I'd like to turn that question around and ask you what each of you feels like you're contributing to the other as an artist in these projects?

Konitz: The first validation that I got was Ohad's encouraging me to write these fragments and then that the results were so interesting to me and, last of all, that people are responding to it.

Tafuri: Ohad?

Talmor: Oh, a lot of things, really.  In a way, I see my musical relationship with Lee almost as in a guru-disciple way.  How many young musicians — and I still consider myself to be a young musician — today have the chance of being taken under the wing by an old master?  [To Konitz] And this has been going on for fifteen years now, you know, this relationship?  And just get carried along the way.  Every new step brings a learning experience.  I still feel like I have a whole lot of mountain to climb but, interestingly enough, I was talking to my good friend Dan Weiss, the drummer, who is a great tabla player and who undertook the study of tabla with a guru, this great teacher Samir Chatterjee, who says, "Sure, it's a 30-year process."  Usually, you don't start playing until you're 39-40 years old; that's when the teacher lets you play — solo.  It's never going to happen like that in the contemporary jazz world and in contemporary society (and so forth), but having the privilege to be able to follow in his footsteps and, for me, whatever I can do to bring out his own music, it just enhances my learning process. 

Konitz: Hmm.

Tafuri: There's another tune here that you were talking about when you were describing the broad scope of the CD, this tune "Relative Major." 

Konitz: Well, first of all, it's his [Ohad's] title and, of course, I knew of the "relative minor" situation, but I didn't quite get the significance of "Relative Major."  As I recall, at that moment, it was a bunch of fragments.

Talmor: Actually, it was a long piece that started in C minor and ended in E-flat major, hence the "Relative Major."  It went the other way; it started dark, and it ended brighter.

Konitz: I never knew that.

Talmor: [To Konitz] Yeah, it's very nice.  So, it's a very long piece; it's a 64-bar form. 

Konitz: And if you could see these three or four pages; he's written out — at my request — the melody with the chords, so I have some reference to the melody.  And it's just black and white up the kazoo [sic], as they say, and I'm trying to, you know, see it and everything.  That's a practical look at it but, musically, it's a very interesting culmination of this getting together. 

Tafuri: [To Talmor]  Yeah, because in the scope of what you were talking about before, you made it sound like this was one of Lee's more fully realized modern pieces. 

Talmor: Yes, it was.  It was kind of an A-B-A or A-B-C form, so it was very thought-out: the first part in minor, the bridge (if you will) has a rubato with no time or pulse, and the third part's contrasting material to the first part, but in a different key with a different feel.  It's very well thought-out.  He's [Lee's] being modest, but I think he's very thorough with the composing aspect, which is a very underrated side [of Lee].  Especially now, I've noticed that everybody's starting to play Lee's tunes more and more, you know, "Subconscious Lee" — these lines that he wrote in the 1800s —

Konitz: [Chuckling] He's just kidding, folks.

Talmor: But, in case the of this particular line, "Relative Major, it's very detailed, very detailed, when chord changing is happening, at what specific moment.  And the impression I got from it was almost a European feel, so that's why I explored a more European, contemporary side with these masses of sound punctuating the beginning and end, this very thick twelve-voice chorale that moves as a big "texture," as opposed to just single lines.  And that's just another "shade" of the things that Lee is able to build on.  And then he goes into this "swinging thing."  It's all these things.  But they were embedded in the piece, I felt. 

Konitz: I was just thinking of this collaboration phenomenon, of Duke Ellington with Billy Strayhorn, Miles with Gil Evans, who else?  Of those two, especially, I was just browsing through a book on Billy Strayhorn, 'cause I wondered, I know that Duke Ellington couldn't have written and arranged all that music.  And everybody that seems to know insists that he did, and I won't believe it.  Billy Stayhorn was the workhorse in that situation.  And Miles had many facets to his career; [his collaboration with Gil] was just one of them, but he encouraged Gil to prepare these great settings for him, and it worked.

Tafuri: And, from what I understand, those weren't easy charts either.  I heard there were a lot of issues getting those right in the studio.

Konitz: Oh, yeah.  We never did, actually.  There's still some kind of clumsy playing in there.

Tafuri: You've mentioned "European" a couple of times, so I wanted to bring it more specifically to this recording with the Orquestra Jazz de Matosinhos.  What kinds of cross-pollination came out of working with a Portuguese band, a band that has its own "life," sort of, that wasn't put together specifically to do this recording?  Are there things about this collaboration that pop into your minds?

Konitz: The first thing for me, always, is the fact that someone invites me to be part of a project.  That's pretty much how I work all the time.  If people wouldn't invite me, I'd be home practicing a lot, so I appreciate that.  Then, I see how hard these guys are willing to work and have to work to play this music, because it's difficult.  And, you know, these aren't world-class musicians thrown together like you'd find in New York.  What happens with the world-class musicians in New York [is that they] sound like a bunch of world-class musicians who were thrown together for that situation.  

Talmor: Hmm.

Konitz: We haven't had enough opportunity to work, yet, to make it really relaxed and completely functional and effective but, for me, to see all these guys so serious is very inspiring. 

Talmor: Well, there are two things.  The first thing is that how in Portugal (not necessarily the world capital of jazz) the reality of the music is so prevalent. 

Konitz: It's great.

Talmor: It's so essential.  And the universal quality of it was a shock for me, coming here into this setting, not really knowing what to expect.  You know, I mean, Pedro [Guedes] asked me to write the music after just having heard me, basically, once.  I didn't really know the orchestra, except for one recording, and so it's been a great experience witnessing these guys completely and fully dedicated and having a complete grasp of the jazz vocabulary as being their own.  I think it's admirable.  This particular project with the Matosinhos Orchestra is a great example of what's right in the music [today].

Konitz: And Ohad, from my experience, is a very "helpful" instructor.  He's very patient, very willing to explain exactly what the instruments should do.  He was able to suggest to our string quartet [in an earlier project] the fingerings to get certain effects and everything.  So, the musicians will listen, knowing that he knows what he's talking about.  There's the danger of the language [differences].  Frequently, I think Ohad gets a little poetic in his descriptions, and I see question marks over heads... 


Talmor: I feel that, too.  I finish a phrase, and there's a big, long blank.

Konitz: Yeah, I mean, it's very beautifully said, but I don't know if your guys [to Pedro Guedes, sitting in the room] understand some of it.

Tafuri: Well, it's been fun watching, because you [to Talmor] do some in French, you do some — a lot — in English.  You do a smattering of different languages —

Konitz: Hebrew.  If we had a Hebrew guy, you [to Talmor] would talk in Hebrew to him.  [Chuckles.]

Tafuri: And there's a whole other thing going on, because the band is playing music that, I think, is quite different for them — non-traditional Jazz Big Band vocabulary — so there's a real growth and coming together.

Konitz: Yeah, it's beautiful.

Tafuri: You know, there's a lot of "stuff" that's been going on with this recording and the upcoming concert: musicians are learning new music and applying their skills to new styles; Lee is sort of "re-learning" his own music and playing in a new context, that of a big band; Ohad's having to work in a new context and adjust and even re-write.  Lee, you've already said how sometimes you feel a little "uncomfortable" because you'd just like to be able "to play."  So, I guess what I'm asking is what do you think comes out of all the effort of this experience? 

Konitz: The satisfaction of undertaking a project and making it work is what the result is.  It's great satisfaction ... and you even get paid for it! 

[Talmor and Tafuri laugh.]

Konitz: [Leaning to one side and tapping the wallet in his back pocket] And I got it right here.  [Chuckles.]

Talmor: Besides all the other things we've talked about, for me, after spending many hours writing the music and now getting to hear it, it's a great thing. 

Konitz: His wife looks down into the workroom and says, "When you gonna come up, man?!"  Then about eight hours go by...  I mean, that's serious; you can get a divorce doing that. 

Tafuri: Everybody's making big commitments for this; everyone's having to really commit themselves to this project.  And you don't often see this level of commitment in the jazz world.  You'll see it in the classical world.  I'm not saying "ever," but it's pretty rare.

Talmor: There's a specific dynamic between the relationship between Lee and me and this orchestra, with you and the OmniTone label (which is very precious — your willingness to put out the three projects that we've been working on for a few years).

Konitz: Very unusual.

Talmor: All these things coming together — from my limited experience — is admirable.  I don't know what is going to change because of it — we're all going to die eventually — but this recording won't.  Hopefully, it's echoing truth for the listeners. 

Konitz: Incidentally, I wasn't just being silly by saying "not me," because I've always felt that I was going to live forever; that was my rationale for not practicing enough when I'd hear about Coltrane practicing eight hours a day and Bird practicing fifteen hours a day the first few years.  Anyway, I just thought I'd interject that. 

[Laughter all around.]

Tafuri: I had one more question for you, Lee.  It might be a silly question, but...  Has there been anything in your career — and you've worked with so many different artists and ensembles — we're you've felt like the kind of growth you've had on these projects with Ohad?

Konitz: No, with the big bands, I was just part of the saxophone section ... with a solo, occasionally.  With a string quartet that I recorded many years ago that Bill Russo wrote, it was done in the studio.  He had me in mind, so I was able to be featured on that, and there are some nice things, but it was just done during the recording date and was never performed anyplace.  So this is a very unique project.

Tafuri: And, I think the big thing is that it really is a collaborative process, and that comes out more and more. 

Talmor: Oh, yeah.

Tafuri: And it's really reflected on this project in that there are co-composer credits on just about everything on the project.

Talmor: Very generous.

Konitz: Well, it's because he dressed up these "little themes," he's partly the composer. 

Tafuri: [To Talmor] And he's still calling 'em "little themes." 

Talmor: Yea, it's very —

Konitz: I mean, if you compare it to the orchestra for three or four pages, this repeat of eight bars or something is a "little theme."

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