Jazz Saxophone Legend Lee Konitz Dies from COVID-19 Complications at 92

Lee Konitz, a celebrated jazz saxophonist, died on Wednesday, April 15, due to complications from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). He was 92.

His son, Josh Konitz, confirmed the news to NPR, telling the outlet that his father died from pneumonia that was related to COVID-19.

Born in 1927 in Chicago, Konitz first studied the clarinet before switching over to the alto saxophone, which became his signature instrument.

His career stretched over 70 years, with a body of work that included many solo albums, as well as collaborations with other well-known musicians including Bill Evans, Anthony Braxton, Charles Mingus, Max Roach, and Bill Frisell, Pitchfork reports.

Most notably, Konitz was the last surviving musician that took part in Miles Davis’ Birth of the Cool sessions from 1949 and 1950, that eventually led to the 1957 compilation album.

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The late artist told NPR in 1980 that his love for jazz was founded during his teenage years when he spent time studying and playing with the blind pianist Lennie Tristano.

“It was very inspiring,” Konitz said. “I really started to take music more seriously. I was just a kid with some kind of natural facility. And he indicated to me the direction the music was really in.”

His time with Tristano taught him about what he considered to be the “heart of jazz” — improvisation.

“‘Improvisary’ means ‘unforheard’ — unforeseen — I don’t know what the Latin word for ‘heard’ is, but it’s something like that,” Konitz told NPR in the same interview. “And that’s a question that I ask the so-called improvisers: How much of what you’re improvising is really pre-planned? The idea that the music is full of surprises.”

Throughout his career, Konitz also enjoyed stints with the Claude Thornhill Orchestra and Stan Kenton’s Orchestra, as well as performed at the famous Birdland Jazz Club in New York City.

Konitz, who was married twice, is survived by his two sons, Josh and Paul, and three daughters, Rebecca, Stephanie and Karen, as well as three grandchildren and a great-grandchild, The Guardian reports.

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Source: People.com (https://people.com/music/jazz-saxophone-legend-lee-konitz-dies-from-covid-19-complications-at-92/)

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