Unprepared improv can be thrilling, as long as the musicians go into it with a common conception, a talent for clairvoyance, and a commitment to keep the music moving forward. (Think Ornette Coleman’s ensembles, Miles Davis’ mid-‘60s quintet, or Konitz’s own trio with Elvin Jones on the great 1961 album, Motion.) None of these traits were on display at the Jazz Standard during the set I happened in on.
Maybe it was just a bad set. Konitz seemed aware that things had gone badly. After the maddening first medley, he sort of chuckled, muttered, “I’ve got to get out of here,” and pretended to walk off stage. Nate Chinen, the New York Times’ astute jazz critic, saw the late set on Tuesday and gave it a rave review, calling it “an astonishment of collective attention and unmannered epiphany.” It’s often a gamble with Konitz. This time, I drew a bum hand.