Pianist, composer and educator Lennie Tristano's place in the history of the music seems anomalous from the vantage point of the twenty-first century. His music was arguably as iconoclastic as that of Charlie Parker's and Dizzy Gillespie's and equally of its time, but in contrast with that it can come across as colorless and one-dimensional. His influence has been limited to the likes of sax players Warne Marsh and Lee Konitz, though amongst his fellow pianists only names such as Connie Crothers and Ronnie Ball spring readily to mind as acolytes. He has thus remained something of an underground figure in the truest sense of that term.
This collection of sides recorded over the course of nearly a decade spanning the years from 1946 to 1955 is unlikely to change that, although it does amount to a snapshot of just how rarefied his music could be. A piece such as "On A Planet is something akin to unique within the whole jazz canon, not least because the interplay between Tristano and guitarist Billy Bauer predates the work of Bill Evans and Jim Hall in a similar setting by some years.
Indeed, the majority of the music here was cut in the piano-guitar-bass trio lineup so beloved of the likes of Art Tatum, and given this similarity it's nothing short of staggering how different the music of the two groups is. Where Tatum's trio was in some respects no more than a vehicle for his extraordinary technical prowess, here on "Celestia is a kind of formalism that again is as good as definable by what it is not. Tristano's slighted stilted rhythmic sense seems like the consequence of something other than any technical shortcoming.
When Konitz and Marsh come in on "Intuition their work sets the seal on the impression that this is ultimately paradoxical music, at one and the same time both of the jazz tradition yet also something unusually self-contained. The results can thus seem quite daunting in their individuality, and it's ultimately a matter of personal taste as to whether or not the effort this implies is worth making.
Track Listing: Untitled Blues; Blue Boy; Atonement; Coolin Off With Ulanov; I Dont Stand A Ghost Of A Chance With You; Spontaneous Combustion; Just Judy; Supersonic; On A Planet; Air Pocket; Celestia; Parallel; Appellation; Abstraction; Palimpsest; Dissonance; Freedom; Intuition; Digression; Ju-Ju; Passtime; Descent Into The Maelstrom; Line Up; Requiem; Turkish Mambo; East Thirty-Second Street.
Personnel: Lennie Tristano: piano; Billy Bauer: guitar (1-4, 8-19); Clyde Lombardi: bass (1); Bob Lieninger: bass (2-4); John Levy: bass (8-11); Arnold Fishkin: bass (12-19); Lee Konitz: alto saxophone (18, 19); Warne Marsh: tenor saxophone (18, 19); unidentified drummer (18, 19); Peter Ind: bass (20, 23, 26); Roy Haynes: drums (20, 21); Jeff Morton: drums (23, 26).
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.