The “cool-toned” artist, reads his Blue Note biog, “always had a strong musical curiosity that has led him to consistently take chances and stretch himself, usually quite successfully.”
During his seven-decade career, he recorded for such labels as Atlantic, Prestige, Polydor and Verve. According to his official biography, Konitz was one of the last active musicians to have played all three ever Birdland clubs in New York City.
The jazz great almost turned his back on music in the early 1960s, but returned with a hunger to push the boundaries. His recordings were as prolific as they were varied, ranging in styles from an early unaccompanied saxophone solo album, to post-bop, free improvisations and a string of innovative duets. In 1989, his solo album Lee Konitz In Rio went to No. 22 on Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz Albums chart.
Among the many trophies he received for his talents, Lee snagged the NEA Jazz Masters Award in 2009, was named "Alto Saxophonist of the Year" by Downbeat Magazine Critics Poll in 2010 and in 2013 he was awarded the "German Jazz Prize". Konitz was the subject of a biography, written by Andy Hamilton and published in 2007.
Konitz’ son Josh Konitz confirmed to NPR that the cause of death was pneumonia related to COVID-19.