Lee Konitz was an American jazz saxophonist known for his innovative and influential contributions to the genre. Born on October 13, 1927, in Chicago, Illinois, Konitz began playing the saxophone as a teenager and quickly established himself as a gifted musician.
Throughout his career, Konitz recorded dozens of albums as a bandleader and sideman, collaborating with a wide range of jazz legends including Miles Davis, Gerry Mulligan, Dave Brubeck and Ornette Coleman. He was best known for his work in the cool jazz movement of the 1950s and 1960s, which emphasized a more restrained and intellectual approach to improvisation.
Konitz’s playing style was characterized by its melodic inventiveness and harmonic complexity. He was known for his ability to improvise fluidly over unconventional chord progressions, and for his use of subtle timbral variations to create a unique and expressive sound.
In addition to his work as a performer, Konitz was also an accomplished composer and arranger, and his compositions have been recorded by many jazz greats. He was also a dedicated to working with younger musicians, as illustrated by his album GracefulLee with Grace Kelly.
Konitz’s contributions to jazz were widely recognized, and he received numerous awards and honors over the course of his career, including a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Fellowship in 2009. He passed away on April 15, 2020, at the age of 92.
Today, Konitz is remembered as one of the most important and influential saxophonists in jazz history. His commitment to innovation and his enduring influence on the genre continue to inspire new generations of jazz musicians and listeners alike.
Page last updated 10/15/2023.