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In 1949 Lennie Tristano (1919-78) recorded "Intuition and "Digression , two of the earliest examples of freely improvised jazz. Though the approaches and content differ greatly, authors Peter Ind and Eunmi Shim agree on the following: Tristano best represents how a non-commercial artist can be "air-brushed out of jazz history as an extremely influential teacher.
Jazz Visions: Lennie Tristano and His Legacy Peter Ind Paperback; 192 pages ISBN: 1845530454 David Brown Book Co. 2005
Ind's book has a great feel to it. As one of his subject's steady bassists, he has personal insight into Tristano that Shim couldn't possibly have (she was 14 when the pianist died -yet her book is impeccably and exhaustively researched). While Jazz Visions is personal, it is never unclear and Ind is dedicated to a balanced view even if it puts Tristano in a less than perfect light. The personal perspective is not only about Ind's view of Tristano, but his view of the work that any musician must do to become an artist. Like Shim, he believes a big part of Tristano's legacy is the success of his students, not only the famous ones but the 100s that have been empowered by him to exercise genuine creativity in their daily lives.
Shim's book doesn't often make for a smooth read, perhaps because of her distance from her subject. A single paragraph can use more than one footnoted quote whereas Ind is quite comfortable to speak in the first-person. Yet, one wishes that every biography of a jazz musician was researched this well, Shim having conducted nearly 100 interviews, not to mention including over 40 pages of musical examples, textual analysis, a bibliography and discography and as well as an in-depth analysis of Tristano's work as a teacher that also includes musical/conceptual examples.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.