Lee Konitz, Florian Weber, Vivienne Aerts
Hooglandsekerk, Leiden 25 January 2014.

I’d been looking forward to this show since seeing the listing a few weeks ago. Konitz is one of only two surviving members of the Birth of the Cool sessions/gigs arranged by Miles Davis and Gil Evans. His two accompanists, vocalist Vivienne Aerts and pianist Florian Weber played the first set, mostly originals, as a duo. Both artists are deft at improvisation. Weber’s piano lines are melodic and full, but almost always unpredictable. His influences seem to include the modern jazz of the early 50s and the solo work of artists like Keith Jarrett.

While Aerts is Dutch, she sings in English. Her phasing is gorgeous and her interplay with Weber was a joy to watch and to hear. When she scats, it’s obvious she’s studied Ella, but also obvious is that she’s well trained in using her voice as an instrument. (Not surprising – according to her web site, she currently studies at Berkelee School of Music.) I can imagine some complaining about her occasional difficulties with English pronunciation, but such complaint is churlish given her impressive skills and the undeniable joy she exudes in singing.

His hair didn't look this good yesterday.After a break, Konitz and Weber took the stage. At age 87, he still has some serious chops. Early in the set, he marred otherwise interesting and intriguing performances of I’ll Remember April and Darn that Dream by blowing air through his lips at the end of each one. After those songs, though, his embouchure was much stronger. Nonetheless, Darn That Dream was an especial treat for me, as I know it well from its closing spot on the aforementioned Birth of the Cool. What was most impressive about this set was how the musicians challenged one another to do new things. The two have performed and recorded together several times over the last few years and are obviously comfortable with the challenges of improvising on the same stage.

The show concluded with all three performers doing a beautiful extended take on Carmichael and Mercer’s Skylark. Konitz expressed that he hated microphones and Aerts took this in stride. (Note the difficulty in this given the Hooglandsekerk’s very high ceilings.) I was glad we had seats near the front, because she did a really wonderful job.