The Last of the Hipsters

Marsh is a more perplexing figure. He plays tenor with a vulnerable, shyly garbled tone that seems to come from his throat as much as from his saxophone. He's the most elusive of the three, a Lester Young-derived player whose lines seem to push at rhythms and limn melodies chastely. When on the last disc here he plays Charlie Parker's "Yardbird Suite," he pokes out the melody quietly in a series of short statements, articulating every phrase with little accents that, in the subdued context, sound almost like squawks. He's a melodist, but hardly a romantic. The improvisation that follows is based on short phrases, logically linked, but distinct, as if he were afraid of falling into the cliches of swing. There was nothing cliched about him. It's hard to imagine anyone playing "Melancholy Baby" with less swagger. And yet he had a sense of humor as well: One of his tunes is "Background Music," a self-deprecating title that reflects the atmosphere of many clubs.

All three of these jazzmen have been revered for decades by other musicians. Not even Konitz, who survives and plays as expressively as ever, has received much of the attention, let alone the adulation, of the general public. They are thought, perhaps, to be too rigorous, too intellectual, too guarded in their expressions. They are serious, all right, but there's wit and charm here as well. And joy -- listen to Marsh and Konitz play "Topsy." While celebrating their common hero Lester Young, they bounce off each other like schoolchildren out on recess. Tristano himself may never rise to that level of effervescence, but he never played a note he didn't mean, and you hear soul as well as body in the work reissued here.

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