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Lennie Tristano

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Album Review

Lennie Tristano's Atlantic debut was a controversial album at the time of its release. Though Tristano was regarded as a stellar and innovative bebop pianist, he had been absent from recording for six years and had founded a jazz school where he focused instead on teaching. The first four tunes on this set shocked the jazz world at the time of their release (though not critic Barry Ulanov, who was Tristano's greatest champion and wrote the liner notes to the set). The reason was that on the four original tunes that open the set — "Line Up," "Requiem," "Turkish Mambo," and "East Thirty-Second" — Tristano actually overdubbed piano lines, and sped the tape up and down for effect. While the effect is quite listenable and only jarring (in the most splendid sense of the word) because of the sharp, angular arpeggios and the knotty, involved method of improvising against the rhythm section of drummer Jeff Morton and bassist Peter Ind, it was literally unheard of at the time. The last five tunes on the disc were recorded live with a rhythm section of bassist Gene Ramey and drummer Art Taylor. Lee Konitz plays alto as well. The tunes are all standards including "These Foolish Things," "Ghost of a Chance," and "All the Things You Are." The performance is flawless, with beautiful interplay between Lee and Lennie with stellar harmonic ideas coming down from the bandstand in a fluid, relaxed manner. This is a gorgeous album with a beautiful juxtaposition between the first half and the second half — between the rhythmic and intervallic genius of Tristano as an improviser and as a supreme lyrical and swinging harmonist on the back half.

Biography

Born: March 19, 1919 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s

The history of jazz is written as a recounting of the lives of its most famous (and presumably, most influential) artists. Reality is not so simple, however. Certainly the most important of the music's innovators are those whose names are known by all -- Armstrong, Parker, Young, Coltrane. Unfortunately, the jazz critic's tendency to inflate the major figures' status often comes at the expense of other musicians' reputations -- men and women who have made significant, even essential, contributions...
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