Friday, March 19, 2010


Jazz pianist, composer an teacher of jazz improvisation Leonard Joseph Tristano, best known as Lennie Tristano was born on March 19, 1919 in Chicago, Illinois into an Italian framily from Aversa. He was blind from infancy and studied piano and music theory from pre-teen years, graduating from his home town's American Coservatory of Music in 1943.

He remains a somewhat overlooked figure in jazz history, but his enormous originality and dazzling work as an improviser have long been appreciated by knowledgeable jazz fans; in addition, his work as a jazz educator meant that he has exerted a substantial influence on jazz through figures such as Lee Konitz and Bill Evans.

Tristano's interest in jazz inspired a move to New York City in 1946. His advanced grasp of harmony pushed his music beyond even the complexities of the contemporary bebop movement, though Tristano was always explicit about acknowledging his enormous debt to Charlie Parker and Bud Powell. (Other key ingredients in his style were Nat King Cole and Art Tatum, influences most audible in his early drummerless trio recordings.) Though he and his followers remained at something of a slant to mainstream bebop, Tristano did on occasion play and record with bebop's preeminent figures such as Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker.

Often the "Tristano school" has been contrasted with bebop, however, by being labelled "cool jazz", though this risks lumping his music in with unrelated styles like the West Coast cool jazz of the 1950s.

Among Tristano's most important earlier recordings was a 1949 sextet session with his students, saxophone players Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh. After recording a number of conventionally structured compositions, Tristano had the group record "Intuition" and "Digression." Both pieces were completely improvised, with no prearranged melody, harmony or rhythm. These two songs are often cited among the first examples of free jazz or free improvisation.

His 1953 recording Descent into the Maelstrom is especially significant: an experiment in overdubbing which in its harsh atonality anticipates the much later work of players like cecil Taylor and Borah Bergman (who has specifically mentioned the piece as an important influence on his work).

Tristano released two important albums on Atlantic Records, which remain his best-known work. Lennie Tristano, from 1955, is famous for including innovative experiments with overdubbing ("Requiem" and "Turkish Mambo") and altered tape-speed ("Line Up" and "East 32nd"); the second side is a straightforward club gig in the company of Lee Konitz. "Requiem," a tribute to the late Charlie Parker, is notable for its deep blues feeling – a style not usually associated with Tristano.

However, perhaps the most significant work lies in the composition "Line Up", a spiralling, unbroken, melodically futuristic improvisation based on the changes to All of Me that beggars description, clocking in at an astounding 3:30. CD "The New Tristano" (1962) remains a landmark in solo jazz piano: though on this occasion no overdubbing was used, the music is just as densely conceived, especially the classic "G Minor Complex," an improvisation on the changes of "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To." Tristano's mimicking of a jazz bassist's accompaniment with his left hand on these recordings is distinctive and often imitated; the combination of this line with the dazzling line-spinning of his right hand also gives the music a contrapuntal flavour explicitly paying homage to Bach.

Tristano's distrust of jazz record labels and increasingly infrequent public performances meant that his recordings are comparatively scarce, and many of them are concert recordings of very variable fidelity.

Some of his live performances were recorded and have been released, including those from the Half Note Club in New York from the 1950s, and concerts in Europe from the 1960s. He was one of the first musicians to start his own record label, Jazz Records, which is still in existence and is run by his daughter, the drummer Carol Tristano. The label Inner City released a compilation of various Tristano recordings.

A book by bassist Peter Ind, "Jazz Visions: Lennie Tristano and His Legacy", was released in October 2005. The book documents and discusses Tristano's contributions to jazz music.

Lennie Tristano passed away on November, 1978

Lennie plays "You Don't Know What Love Is"

Reference - Wikipédia

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